10/1997 School Choice Roundup

Published October 1, 1997

Alaska * California * Illinois
New York * Ohio * Pennsylvania * Texas


Governor Signs Home Schooling Law

Home schooling parents in the Last Frontier State now have unprecedented freedom to teach any subject they consider appropriate for their child’s education, after new home schooling legislation was signed into law by Governor Tony Knowles on June 4. The Alaska law makes home schooling legal simply by exempting students from the compulsory school attendance law “if a child is being educated in the child’s home by a parent or legal guardian.” The law imposes no additional requirements: no registrations, regulations, teaching qualifications, notice requirements, testing, or evaluation of the program by anyone.
Home School Court Reporter


Administrators Identify “Disruptive” Groups

The Association of California School Administrators has compiled a list of “political groups” and individuals that local school officials have identified as responsible for disrupting board meetings and school operations. The request was initiated by a group of school administrators after the Moreno Valley school board was successfully sued by a woman the board had silenced while she was trying to criticize district employees.

The organizations and individuals on the list range across the political spectrum and include the Christian Coalition, the Mexican American Political Association, an anti-tax group, a group opposed to Goals 2000, and others advocating the rights of black students. “It seems they are targeting people who are advocates for children in the public schools,” said Mark Lopez of School Watch/SENTRY.
Orange County Register


Common Lesson Plans Offered

All Chicago public school teachers will be offered system-wide lesson plans next fall, pursuant to a new academic plan established by Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas. The plan builds on the success of this year’s summer school program, which mandated daily lesson plans, daily objectives for students, and classroom activities to achieve the objectives. This year’s summer school gains were nearly double last year’s, according to Vallas.
Chicago Sun-Times

Few Charter Schools Open

Of 38 applicants that began the chartering process in Chicago last year, only ten were approved, and only six will open this fall. The remaining four were unable to find suitable facilities. Illinois law permits a total of 15 charters for Chicago; 31 groups have taken out applications to fill the remaining slots.

Although 15 charters are also available for Chicago’s suburbs, no charter has yet been approved. One application was recently rejected for the second time by suburban school boards. In an attempt to move suburban charter schools forward, State Superintendent of Education Joseph Spagnolo has convened an exploratory meeting among his staff, local school superintendents, and charter school proponents.
Paul Seibert


Scholarships Prompt Parents to Abandon Failing School

More than one-third of the students from the worst elementary school in Albany, Giffen Elementary, will not be returning to the school this fall. Instead, they will be attending one of 29 private and parochial schools in Albany, supported by tuition scholarships from a privately funded group called “A Better Choice.” The ABC scholarships are good for half the cost of tuition, up to $1,000. Annual tuition at private and parochial schools in the area averages $2,000. The scholarships were made possible by philanthropist Virginia Gilder, who offered scholarships to every Giffen student entering first through sixth grades.

One local education official accused the scholarship program of “cherry-picking some of our best students,” despite evidence from third and sixth grade state education exams that fully half of the Giffen student body is illiterate. Others claim ABC and Ms. Gilder are lobbying to take money from public schools, even though tuition for the scholarship students is paid by parents and a $1 million donation from Ms. Gilder.
David Kirkpatrick


Funding Approved for Expanded Voucher Program

Although an appeals court recently declared the program unconstitutional, Ohio legislators approved $15 million in funding not only to continue but to expand the Cleveland voucher program for the next two years. The Ohio Supreme Court subsequently took action to permit the program to proceed while it reviews the appeals court ruling. The program will accept 1,000 new kindergarten students this fall, bringing total participation to 3,000. The vouchers, which are awarded by lottery, are worth up to $2,500 to low-income families.

Despite reports of improved test scores among voucher students, the Cleveland Teachers Union and Citizens Against Vouchers will continue their opposition to the program. “Of course children will do better when they don’t have to deal with the conditions in public schools,” said union spokesperson Meryl T. Johnson.
Education Week


State’s First Charter School Launched

On August 26, just two months after he signed legislation authorizing charter schools, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge cut the ribbon to open Keystone Education Center Charter School in Greenville, the state’s first charter school. In addition to Keystone, which serves students who are struggling academically, four more schools are scheduled to open in the Philadelphia area later this year and others are on the way. Over 60 groups have already received planning grants to start charter schools, and the state will award $1 million to help 43 groups plan even more. Ridge told the Harrisburg Patriot-Newshe wishes all 501 of the state’s public schools would become charter schools.
David Kirkpatrick


Gangsta Math Sparks Protest

A joke backfired on six Texas high school teachers when they were suspended for handing out worksheets showing the kind of math problems faced every day by urban gangsters in the world of drugs and violence. Their examples included:

  • Johnny has an AK-47 with an 80-round clip. If he misses six out of ten shots and shoots 13 times at each drive-by shooting, how many drive-by shootings can he attempt before he has to reload?
  • Jerome wants to cut his half-pound of heroin to make 20 percent more profit. How many ounces of cut will be needed?

The teachers, suspended for 30 to 60 days, said they were trying a different approach to get their students’ attention.
Daily Herald