07/1999 State Education Roundup

Published July 1, 1999

Connecticut * District of Columbia * Florida * Illinois * Louisiana
Michigan * Missouri * Ohio * Vermont * Wisconsin


Success Creates Growth in Hartford

Thanks to a recent donation of an additional $1 million, the CEO Connecticut program this fall will more than double its scholarship awards to Hartford elementary school children. The new funds will be used over a four_year period to provide approximately 250 K_5th grade students with the opportunity to attend a private or religious school chosen by their parents or guardians. This brings the total number of scholarships funded by CEO Connecticut to 450, up from the initial 200 awarded in Hartford this past fall.
A Voice for Choice
March 31, 1999


Bolick Honored by Sovereign Fund

At a luncheon in San Francisco, the California-based Sovereign Fund honored Clint Bolick, litigation director of the Institute for Justice, for his work to promote and defend school choice. Bolick was recognized as an individual whose “efforts have transformed the lives of untold American youngsters” and as “one of the nation’s best strategists and most successful courtroom defenders” of school choice. Bestowing the award were Sovereign Fund Chairman Kurt W. Simon and Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman.

Simon, the Sovereign Fund’s founder, emigrated to the United States from Germany in the 1930s. He created the Fund in 1981 to honor people who are fighting to preserve the freedom he found in his adopted nation.
Liberty and Law
May 1999


County Waives Fees for Private Schools

Until recently, Florida’s Seminole County charged impact fees on all new housing and business developments–including private schools–to help pay for roads to accommodate traffic generated by the new development. But when the county wanted the Gospel Light Baptist Church to pay $24,000 in impact fees for a new church school, pastor Stanley Coon refused to pay, citing his belief in the separation of church and state.

Since the county already waived impact fees for new public schools, county leaders resolved the conflict by becoming the only county in Central Florida to exempt all schools–public and private–from the impact fees.

“It is in the public interest and serves a public purpose to encourage the development of nonpublic educational facilities,” states the ordinance approved by the county board. The board reasoned that private schools serve an important public purpose by reducing the need for school districts to build new schools and hire more teachers. Several board members cited fairness as the issue.

While several residents spoke in favor of the ordinance at a recent public hearing, David Johns, president of the National Private Schools Association Group, Inc., didn’t think it was a good idea to separate private schools from other private businesses. The exemptions could open the door to future government intervention in the operation of private schools, he warned.
Orlando Sentinel
March 4, 1999


Ameritech Scholarships Help Catholic Schools

An Ameritech grant of $450,000 to the Big Shoulders Fund will provide 100 needy elementary students a $500 annual grant towards their tuition at schools in the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese. The grant will also fund an $85,000 Ameritech Distance Learning Lab at an elementary school chosen by the Archdiocese, and $115,000 will be spent to assist other elementary schools with technology needs.

The Big Shoulders Fund provides support to Chicago’s Catholic inner-city schools, where more than half the students live in families at or below the poverty level. Approximately 80 percent of the students who attend Big Shoulders schools are minorities, and nearly 40 percent are non-Catholics. The schools achieve a 95 percent attendance rate, with a dropout rate of less than 1 percent. Nearly 95 percent of Big Shoulders elementary school graduates complete high school, and more than 80 percent of high school students graduate from college.
Ameritech News Release
May 21, 1999


Bring in the Marines!

The New Orleans school board unanimously approved the appointment of Marine Corps Colonel Alphonse Davis as superintendent of the city’s public schools, though he has no experience in the education field. A New Orleans native with a 26-year service record, Davis works at the Pentagon for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and has a master’s degree from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. His appointment necessitated a waiver by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education of requirements for public school superintendents, such as having a teaching certificate and experience as a school administrator.
May 25, 1999


New Schools Chief Has Modest Goals

The new chief of the Detroit Public Schools, former Wayne State University President David Adamany, revealed quite modest first-year goals for the city’s schools:

  • to get the schools ready for the return of students in August. Adamany admitted that repairs probably would not be completed for all classrooms and bathrooms, and that 1,000 teaching vacancies probably would not all be filled.
  • to give schools more educational supplies; and
  • to give principals more power to order and control those supplies.

Adamany was appointed interim chief executive officer in early May by the new Detroit school board, appointed by Mayor Dennis Archer on March 26.

Despite assertions that he could “move forward fearlessly,” Adamany said that serious education reforms would be left to a permanent CEO. He expects to return to teaching at Wayne State University when his one-year term is completed.
Detroit Free Press
May 19, 1999


Schools Told: Shape Up, or Else

If 40 St. Louis public schools don’t make significant improvements in test scores, attendance rates, and dropout rates, they could face reconstitution, a process where principals could be fired and teachers transferred to other schools.

Eleven of the targeted schools were named in January 1998, and 29 new ones were added in May this year. Reconstitution of three of the schools from last year’s list is expected to take place as soon as this summer, according to Larry Hutchins, accountability director for the St. Louis Public Schools.

“There are no safe havens for people who don’t want to put effort into improving schools,” said schools superintendent Cleveland Hammonds Jr.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
May 26, 1999


Cleveland Board Fires 14 Principals

Following the recommendation of Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the Cleveland school board took steps to fire 14 principals and gave another 44 one year to improve performance or lose their jobs. Byrd-Bennett’s recommendations were based on a review of attendance rates, test scores, suspensions, and the overall learning environment at each school.

“Previous principal firings have been symbolic rather than significant,” said Richard A. DeColibus, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union. “These are significant,” he added, noting that for the first time the board had ignored friendships and political ties in deciding who to retain and who to fire. Cleveland Plain Dealer
March 31, 1999


Prospective Teachers Told to Buy a Gun

The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union requires a criminal background check for all employees, but such checks cost $24 each and can take six months to carry out. At a meeting in May, supervisory union board member Ricky Harrington came up with a creative solution: Telling prospective school employees to buy a gun as a way of getting a quick and free background check under the federal Brady Bill. Harrington made it clear that he doesn’t want teachers to carry a weapon, only that they try to buy one.

“It sounds absurd, but it makes sense,” he said. “I won’t have felons teaching my children and it won’t cost nearly as much.”
Boston Globe
May 24, 1999


Lifetime Perks for Defeated Board Members

When Milwaukee voters ousted incumbent school board members in the April 6 election, they also stopped paying the defeated officials their $7,200 annual salaries. But voters couldn’t prevent two defeated board members and their spouses from receiving lifetime benefits and coverage under the Milwaukee Public Schools’ health insurance plan.

After eight and ten years on the board respectively, outgoing members Sandra Small and Leon Todd will pay just 5 percent of the cost of MPS health insurance premiums. Taxpayers will pick up the rest, an estimated $340,000.

Although other MPS employees must work at least 15 years to qualify for this benefit at age 55, school board members voted in the 1980s to qualify themselves for the lifetime insurance coverage after just eight years in office. In January, board member John Gardner–who was re-elected in April–introduced a resolution to require elected school district officials to serve at least 15 years to receive the benefit. The resolution was defeated on a 4-4 vote, with opposition coming from board members who generally support teacher union positions, including Small and Todd.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
April 20, 1999