10/2000 State Education Roundup

Published October 1, 2000

Arkansas * California * Colorado * Florida * Maryland
Minnesota * Nevada * Ohio * Oklahoma * Virginia


Alliance Bemoans 20+ Years of Low Achievement

By all measures of educational achievement, Arkansas’ education system is bad; it’s been bad for more than 20 years; it’s not getting any better; and nobody seems to care.

That was the sobering message of a new report released in August by members of the Arkansas Business and Education Alliance, which for the past 10 years has encouraged students to get better educations. While there has been some improvement in the percentage of the state’s residents who graduated from high school and from college, the report noted other states have increased their rates more.

“If we continue down this path with the same expenditures and the same expectations, we are going to get the same thing we have gotten for . . . the last 150 years,” warned State Senator John Riggs IV (D-Little Rock), an alliance board member.

Riggs said the problems today are exactly the same as they have been for more than 20 years. Part of the reason, according to alliance board chairman David Williams, is the state seems collectively resigned to doing poorly in education. Low expectations are dooming the state to poverty, he said.

President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, currently a candidate for U.S. Senate in New York, both worked to improve education in Arkansas when Mr. Clinton was governor of the state during 12 of the last 20 years.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
August 11, 2000


Union Clears Deck for Voucher Fight . . .

Determined not to be distracted during its campaign against school vouchers, the California Teachers Association and its staff union, the California Staff Organization, reached a tentative agreement on a one-year contract in August.

Since most staff contracts are multi-year, observers viewed the short-term settlement as clear evidence the groups were postponing major disagreements until after the election. All professional staffers received a 5 percent raise, had their daily meal allowance increased to $63 and their automobile allowance to $630, and agreed to be evaluated annually for the first three years of employment, and once every three years thereafter.

The voucher initiative on the California ballot, Proposition 38, would provide every student with a $4,000 voucher to use at a non-public school of choice, secular or religious. Since the public schools currently spend about $7,400 per student, the public schools would realize a net gain of $3,400 for every student who opted for a voucher, providing higher per-pupil funding for students who stay in the public schools.

. . . While Staffers Fake Anti-Voucher Rally

By the time the California Staff Organization settled its contract with the California Teachers Association late in the evening on August 23, the staff union already had arranged to picket in front of the CTA Governmental Relations building at 8 o’clock the following morning. Rather than cancel the picketing, CSO turned it into an anti-voucher event.

Only seven staffers turned up, no line was formed, and only coffee-drinking took place until, after about 40 minutes, a member of the press arrived from a California radio station.

Informed that the picket was moot, the enterprising reporter spied the anti-voucher placards nearby and had the seven staffers gather around his microphone and chant “No on Prop 38” three times. He exchanged words for about a minute with one staffer, and then left. The staffers went back to drinking their coffee and milling about. Their “three cheers” were the only chanting or demonstration of any sort. By 9 o’clock, the staff had completely dispersed.
The Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué
August 28, 2000


Merit Pay in Colorado

While the NEA Representative Assembly put the brakes on performance pay, some local affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers continue to extend the boundaries of the idea.

The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers completely discarded the traditional salary scale in favor of a five-tier merit system. Now, Colorado’s Douglas County Federation of Teachers, which negotiated the first performance pay system in the country in 1994, has negotiated a new pact with the school district that will expand the criteria for teacher evaluations to include student performance. Student standardized test scores will be a part of the evaluation system, but not the sole measure.

“We try to look at the whole system,” said union president Rob Weil. “We don’t believe [test] scores are an indication of a total performance of a teacher. We go deeper.”
The Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué
July 24, 2000


No PAC Soliciting on School Grounds

Two years ago, the Florida Election Commission ruled against union officials soliciting campaign contributions within government buildings through payroll deduction forms. The state law reads: “No person shall make and no person shall solicit or knowingly accept any campaign contribution in a building owned by a government entity.”

The Florida Education Association appealed the decision, bringing in National Education Association attorneys from Washington to argue its case. In August, Florida’s First District Court of Appeals upheld the commission’s ruling. Attorneys for FEA say they plan no further appeal of the case.

At least 15 other states are said to have laws against PAC solicitations in government buildings. The Florida decision could prompt similar legal challenges elsewhere.
The Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué
August 21, 2000


“Whose Side Are You On?”

When Karl Pence stepped down after seven years as president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, he could have returned to his former teaching position at Chopticon High School, which he left 10 years ago. But Gov. Parris Glendening created a new state government position–special adviser for educational issues–and in July he hired Pence for the job at $78,000 per year.

Pence is the second high-ranking teacher union official Glendening has appointed to a state government job this year. In February, the governor appointed Walter Levin to the state school board. For the previous 10 years, Levin had been chief counsel for the Maryland State Teachers Association.
The Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué
July 24, 2000


Can’t Please Everyone

An attempt by Minneapolis school officials to distribute students speaking the same non-English language among a wider group of high schools has won praise from one group of English language learners (ELL) and criticism from another.

While Somali students complained to the district they could not learn English as well if there were too many other students in the school speaking Somali, Hmong parents now are protesting that their children are being split up among different schools because they want them to be around other students who share their culture.

Until other high schools recently added similar programs, services for non-English-speaking students in Minneapolis were concentrated in just two high schools: Roosevelt High for Somali and other East Indian students, and Edison High for Hmong students. Over the past five years, the number of ELL students in Minneapolis has more than doubled, from 5,000 to 10,862, nearly 20 percent of the total student body. The largest percentage of ELL students is Somali, followed by Spanish-speaking, and then Hmong.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
August 21, 2000


Gov: Lack of Educated Workforce Hurts State

Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn believes the lack of an educated workforce is hurting efforts to get Fortune 500 companies to relocate to his state. At a recent economic development conference, he told the several hundred attendees Nevada has the highest high school dropout rate in the nation and the lowest percentage of high school students who go on to college–just 37 percent versus a 65 percent national rate. This didn’t help attract top companies to Nevada, he said.

Guinn wants to improve the state’s education standing to make it more attractive to high-paying, nationally prominent companies. That change already is underway. This fall’s freshman college enrollment at the state’s two universities is about 25 percent larger than last year because of the governor’s new Millennium Scholarship Program. The program provides college scholarships of up to $2,500 a year to graduating high school seniors with grade point averages of B or higher.
Las Vegas Review-Journal
August 18, 2000


McGuffey and Eclectic Readers Celebrated

Miami University of Oxford, Ohio is celebrating the 200th of the birth of one of its most famous faculty members, William Holmes McGuffey, with a fall exhibit in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections Library. Born on September 23, 1800, near Claysville in Pennsylvania, McGuffey began his career at Miami University and served on the faculty from 1826 to 1836.

During this period, Cincinnati publisher Truman and Smith asked McGuffey to compile the series of school books that would make his name as familiar as the alphabet during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The First and Second Readers were published in 1836, followed a year later by the Third and Fourth Readers and the Primer. Within six years, the series was selling a half-million copies a year, and after the Civil War, they had become standard schoolbooks in 37 states. Total sales approached 125 million copies, with translations into Spanish and Japanese.

“Even the simplest lessons contained in the Readers had moral overtones and were designed to win the pupil’s interest,” said C. Martin Miller, head of the Special Collections Library, noting also that extracts from the greatest English writers served to introduce children to the treasures of literature. These twin moral and cultural influences “contributed much to the shaping of the American mind in the nineteenth century,” he added.

As well as almost 600 McGuffey Readers, the Miami University exhibit contains a variety of items, letters, and books related to McGuffey and the McGuffey Societies. The exhibit will run through December 2000.
Words Worth
Miami University Libraries
Fall 2000


Keeping Out the Bad Apples

After the Oklahoma State Board of Education recently revoked the teaching credentials of four people for a variety of reasons, State Superintendent Sandy Garrett directed her staff to develop a plan to detect teachers who have a felony conviction. Within 24 hours, she had a plan: Require teachers applying for new or renewed certification to provide evidence they have undergone federal and state criminal background checks.

“We want to protect the safety of children in this state,” Garrett said. “We think that is not just through bullet-proof doors and windows. It is also making certain we have the most qualified teacher in that classroom and they are free of felony convictions.”

Garrett also wants the State Department of Education to be informed by the district courts when a teacher is convicted of a felony. Under current law, a person convicted of a felony during the previous 10 years is not permitted to teach. That’s not enough for Garrett; she wants felons to be barred from teaching for life.

“They are to be a moral role model, and a role model of being a good citizen,” Garrett said. “They can choose another profession as far as I am concerned.”
Tulsa World
August 24, 2000


Dress Code Approved–for Teachers

No more baggy pants, no exposed midriffs, no Spandex, no leggings, no T-shirts, no tight or revealing tops, no short shorts, no mini-skirts, no sweat suits, no jeans, and no tight denim slacks. That was the dress code Virginia’s Franklin County school board enacted for students last spring. In August, they approved the same dress code for teachers.

The board’s action was prompted by a recent incident when at least two new teachers–men and women–attended a recent orientation session in what was considered inappropriate attire. Although Florella Johnson, associate superintendent of schools, said the teachers in question were not dressed “to a professional standard,” she declined to describe their clothing.

“It shows we are serious about what the staff will do, as well as students,” Johnson said about the new teacher dress code.
The Roanoke Times
August 16, 2000