09/2000 State Education Roundup

Published September 1, 2000

Alabama * California * Connecticut * Georgia * Illinois * Kansas
Minnesota * Missouri * Ohio * Oklahoma * Utah * Wisconsin


Teacher Union Two-Faced on Pay Raises

While publicly blasting a proposed 20 percent pay raise for Birmingham Public Schools Superintendent Johnny Brown, the Alabama Education Association leadership recently awarded its own professional staff and employees pay raises averaging 24 percent, plus an increase in staff benefits.

An editorial by AEA Executive Director Paul Hubbert in the union’s house organ, Alabama School Journal, called on the Birmingham school board to “respect the feelings of taxpayers and the employees” and to give Superintendent Brown a raise “more in line with other raises being received for education employees for next year.” Last year, Hubbert received a 79 percent pay increase, bringing his salary to $304,427 a year.

“What Superintendent Brown has done is the worst possible thing that can happen to destroy the morale of employees,” Hubbert said last November during an illegal teacher strike over Brown’s proposed 20 percent raise.
Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué
July 17, 2000


DA Drops Charges against Homeschoolers

Four homeschooling families who had been threatened with charges of criminal truancy can breathe more easily, after the Alameda County District Attorney’s office in July decided not to pursue the charges.

The student attendance review board of the Berkeley Unified School District had asked each of the families to submit evidence of their children’s school attendance and information on the curricula they were taught. When the families refused to respond, citing the board’s actions as a violation of their rights, the board referred the case to the district attorney’s office for criminal investigation.

Will Rogers, an attorney representing three of the four families, said a contributing factor in the families’ success was a series of reports in WorldNetDaily about the case.

“This is a victory, not only for the four Berkeley families, but for homeschoolers throughout Alameda County and throughout California,” said Rogers, noting homeschoolers no longer faced imminent prosecution for doing what they believed best for their children.
July 12, 2000


Districts Don’t Always Pay for School Choices

Parents in Connecticut are permitted to exercise public school choice, but some discover their choice of another public school has just the same financial penalty as choosing a private school: They have to pay tuition at their child’s new school.

A recent article in The Hartford Courant described how four parents were faced with $3,900 tuition bills for their children to attend an arts magnet school.

For students who want to study agriculture, tuition is not an issue, since all local school districts pay the $6,100 tuition for students who choose to attend one of the state’s 19 regional vocational-agricultural centers.

But many Hartford-area school districts do not pay the $3,900 tuition for students who choose to attend the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, an arts magnet school. Some towns, such as Torrington, Farmington, and Rocky Hill, pay the full $3,900. Other towns, like Simsbury and Granby, pay $3,000, while Canton pays $750. Three towns–Avon, West Hartford, and Bloomfield–pay nothing.

According to George Coleman, associate commissioner of the state department of education, the state funds the agricultural and vocational schools but leaves the funding of arts academies and other magnet school programs up to individual school districts.
The Hartford Courant
July 17, 2000


It’s Payback Time, Says Teacher Union

Georgia legislators who supported Governor Roy Barnes’ education reform package found out the cost of that support just before the July 18 primary election: The state’s largest teacher union refused to endorse them and, in most cases, backed their opponents.

Ralph Noble, newly elected president of the 35,000-member Georgia Education Association, told The Macon Telegraph the decision was a reflection of “our dissatisfaction with their voting records for teachers last year.”

The union’s decision meant it withheld support for former GEA president, State Senator Faye Smith. Although the union did not endorse Smith’s Democratic primary opponent, former State Senator Floyd Griffin, the union did endorse an unknown Democrat against State Senator Gloria Butler. The union also endorsed challenger Doug Haines against popular State Senator Paul C. Broun (D-Athens), vice-chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

While Smith and Butler won their primary races by vote margins of 56-44 and 73-27 percent respectively, Broun was defeated 56-44.
The Macon Telegraph
July 11, 2000
July 19, 2000


Are School Boards Qualified to Operate Schools?

After conducting a public hearing earlier this year on the charter school plan from Visional Academy Charter School, the board of Alton School District 11 denied the proposal. One of the concerns raised by District 11 was that Visional’s founder and management team were not qualified to operate a school–even though each has some 20 years of direct educational delivery experience.

During a hearing on the proposal, an audience member asked what qualifications the popularly elected school board members had to operate a school. One board member responded he had once done some substitute teaching.

Visional’s founders appealed the local board’s denial before a three-member state panel on July 13. Despite the state code’s admonition that its charter school law be interpreted liberally, the law firm representing District 11 argued that if they could find any one thing wrong in their interpretation of the Visional proposal, then the state was obliged to deny the charter.

The panel’s findings will be reported to the State Superintendent of Education, who will make a recommendation to the State Board of Education. The Board then has 60 days to deliver its decision.
The Illinois Charter School Facs
July 17, 2000


Evolution Vote Invigorates Board of Ed Race

Reversing an earlier decision to stay out of State Board of Education politics, Kansas Governor Bill Graves recently pledged to work for the defeat of Mary Douglas Brown, a board member who last year voted to omit the basic concepts of evolution from the state’s science standards.

Since the standards determine what students will be asked on statewide tests, Brown and other board members wanted the standards to exclude material on evolution that creationists contended was just a “theory.”

According to an account in The Wichita Eagle, Graves was miffed over an offer Brown had made to debate him and show he hadn’t evolved from apes. The Governor said he would do whatever he could to help Brown’s opponent for the Board of Education post, Carol Rupe, who is in favor of science standards that include an account of the theory of evolution.
The Wichita Eagle
July 15, 2000


Tax Credit Users Up By One Third

More than one-third more low-income families took advantage of Minnesota’s educational tax credit last year, the second year the program was in effect. In the first year, 39,000 families filed for credits averaging $370; for the 1999 tax year to date, 38 percent more families, for a total of 54,000, have applied for an average credit of $367.

The education tax credit is available to families earning less than $33,500 a year, but it cannot be applied to private school tuition. The state’s education tax deduction, which has been on the books since 1955, can be used for private school tuition. Former Governor Arne Carlson, who created the education tax credit, would like to see it expanded to include private school tuition.

The state teacher union, a staunch critic of the tax credit program, chose to ignore the evidence of increased participation by low-income families and tried to claim “there is nothing to demonstrate” the program is helping low-income families. Rather than allowing low-income families to use the funds as they see fit, the teacher union, Education Minnesota, proposed using the money to fund all-day kindergarten and increased summer school opportunities.
Duluth News Tribune
July 17, 2000


Charter Schools Draw Private School Students

Charter schools in St. Louis are proving to be very popular, with an estimated 1,300 students likely to enroll in the city’s first charter schools in September. What is surprising to educators is that nearly 600 of the students–approximately 45 percent of the total–are transfers from private schools, both religious and secular. That is a much higher percentage than in Kansas City, where about 17 percent of charter school students come from private schools. The national average is about 11 percent.

Former charter school lobbyist Laura Friedman told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch she expected charter school enrollment to consist almost entirely of students from the city’s public schools. But Friedman, who now is director of the nonprofit Charter Schools Information Center, noted many parents had chosen parochial schools not because they are Catholic, but because the schools offered the only alternative to the public school system. Now charter schools are a new alternative for these parents–with no tuition charges.

“The fact that it is tuition-free doesn’t hurt at all,” said parent Linda Hin, who is transferring her son from a Catholic grade school to the St. Louis Charter School. The school will receive about $6,000 from the state for each student who enrolls, regardless of whether the student comes from a public or a private school.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
July 19, 2000


Ohio Justice Backs Off Again

Ohio State Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick, a Democrat running for re-election against Republican Appeals Court Judge Terrence O’Donnell, recently cancelled her plans to make a campaign stop at a school made prominent by an education funding case that Resnick helped decide in May.

As Akron Beacon-Journal reporter Dennis J. Willard noted, this was not the first time Resnick had abruptly changed direction just before she was about to do something unusual regarding schools.

After the State Supreme Court had issued its decision in the DeRolph v. Ohio school funding case–which Resnick wrote–Resnick called for an unprecedented summit meeting with Governor Bob Taft and leaders of the state legislature to develop school funding proposals satisfactory to a majority of the court. She dropped the suggestion when newspaper editorial writers and lawmakers criticized her proposal as over-stepping the bounds of judicial ethics.

Resnick’s campaign stop at the London City Elementary School was arranged by the plaintiff in the school funding suit, the Coalition for Equity & Adequacy in School Funding. When the Akron Beacon Journal raised questions about the ethics of such a campaign stop, the visit was cancelled.
Akron Beacon Journal
July 19, 2000


Four Schools Placed on Probation

Four Oklahoma schools edged closer to being shut down when they were cited recently by the state Board of Education for failing to meet state standards.

The state board based its warning on persistently low test scores, repeated deficiencies, deliberate violation of regulations, employing uncredentialed teachers, failing to submit state-mandated reports, and not conducting required fire drills.

The four schools were “accredited with probation,” one step away from being unaccredited. A school that is unaccredited loses state funding and usually is closed down, according to State Schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett.

Another 22 schools in 17 districts plus one private school were “accredited with warning.” Schools in 42 districts were “accredited with deficiencies,” and 52 districts were “accredited with a single deficiency.”

Garret pointed out to The Oklahoman that more than 500 public school districts, private schools, and vocational-technical schools were “accredited with no deficiencies.”
The Oklahoman
July 19, 2000


What Works? Not D.A.R.E., Says Mayor

Despite protests from parents, PTA presidents, and program employees, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has decided to suspend the city’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education program because, he insists, it isn’t working.

According to federal statistics, marijuana use among Utah teenagers has increased from 7 percent to 11 percent since 1991, with cocaine use up from 5 percent to 7 percent. From 1998 to 1999, use of the drug “Ecstasy” by city twelfth-graders increased by 56 percent.

“This isn’t about sentimentality,” Anderson recently told the City Council. “It’s not about making us feel good. It’s not about asking our kids what makes them feel good after they graduate from D.A.R.E. It’s about science. It’s about results. D.A.R.E. is clearly not the answer and we need to face up to it.”

The 17-year-old D.A.R.E. program, which cost the city $289,000 a year, sends police officers into elementary and junior high schools to teach students how to say “no” to drugs and how to resolve conflict. While some council members thought Anderson was pulling the plug too quickly, the mayor told The Salt Lake Tribune that alternative programs would not take long to start and he was unwilling to sacrifice even more children to an ineffective program.

“Getting rid of D.A.R.E. is the first step,” Anderson said. “Getting a program that works is the next.”
The Salt Lake Tribune
July 12, 2000


Board Won’t Pull Controversial Book

More than six months after parents Richard and Beth Kania filed a complaint to pull a Whoopi Goldberg biography from the high school library, the Muskego-Norway School District Board voted 4-3 to deny the request.

The unauthorized 1987 biography by James Robert Parish, Whoopi Goldberg: Her Journey from Poverty to Mega-Stardom, contains racial epithets, sexually graphic jokes, and references to Goldberg’s attempts at self-abortion when she was a teenager.

During a two-hour hearing on July 10, the Kanias and others who objected to Parish’s book asked the board to remove it from the shelves of the Muskego High School library. Calling the book “obscene literature,” Beth Kania said she could not read objectionable passages aloud because it would be inappropriate for broadcast over the district’s cable TV system and for the ears of the 15-year-old student camera operator.

Board member Kathy Anderson agreed with the Kanias New York Governor George Pataki signed into law a series of comprehensive school violence measures. Looking on and applauding were three teachers injured in classroom assaults by students or their parents and voted to support their complaint, calling the book “utterly filthy.” But other board members cited a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision saying school boards could remove books only if they are “perversely vulgar or educationally unsuitable.”
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
July 10, 2000