School Choice Roundup

Published January 1, 1998

Arizona * California * Florida * Hawaii
Illinois * Missouri * New York


Retirees Balk at Higher School Taxes

Having retired there to enjoy the sunny climate and low taxes, senior citizens in Arizona have consistently rejected property tax increases for schools. Now some residents of a retirement community in Sun City West want to lower their taxes even more by seceding from their suburban Phoenix school district. Other retirement communities in Sun City and Sun City West made that move more than ten years ago by passing a voter referendum to disconnect.

In November, three candidates from Sun City West won control of the five-member Dysart school board. They now want a March vote on whether they and other retirement communities should withdraw from the school district, cutting the Dysart property tax base by one-third. Withdrawal requires approval by a majority of the voters in the district, not just the retirees. Property taxes in the retirement communities could fall by as much as two-thirds if a disconnect is approved.
Daily Herald
November 17, 1997


Who Needs National Tests?

Although all are high school graduates, one-third of the candidates for $60,000-a-year part-time stevedoring jobs can’t pass an exam requiring seventh-grade skills. The test is a joint effort of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, an employers’ group. More than 10,000 candidates have applied for 2,000 of the jobs.

The failure rate “says something pretty scary about the state of education,” says Long Beach Community College instructor Dennis DiGiovanni, who is administering the tests. Even more scary is a suggestion from some union members that the high school graduates should be required to demonstrate only fourth-grade skills.
The Wall Street Journal
October 14, 1997

English Wins, Union Loses

All four union-backed candidates lost in last November’s school board election in the Orange Unified School District, despite some $60,000 in support from the California Teachers Association and its local affiliate. The election propelled three back-to-basics challengers into school board seats and returned current board president Martin Jacobson. In addition, a measure supporting the school board’s decision to replace bilingual education with English immersion took 86.5 percent of the vote.

“All their money and all their lies, and those union boneheads couldn’t even buy one seat,” said Jacobson.
Education Intelligence Agency


$2.5 Billion for School Construction

On November 7, at the end of a special legislative session called by Governor Lawton Chiles to address overcrowding in schools, state legislators voted to spend $2.5 billion on school construction and repair over the next five years. The construction bonds will be paid off with state lottery revenues rather than new taxes.

Florida’s public school system of 2.2 million students is one of the fastest growing in the country, adding about 60,000 new students each year. The fast growth is attributed to a baby boom “echo,” increased immigration, and higher Hispanic birth rates. Some 14 percent of Florida public school students attend classes in portable classrooms.
The New York Times
November 9, 1997


In Jail, Perhaps, But Still Paid

Gregory Standish, an English teacher at Lokelani Intermediate School in Maui, was arrested for an alleged 15 sexual assaults of a student. Standish was also charged with second-degree extortion, second-degree theft, and third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug. He was unable to make his $305,000 bail, but will remain on paid leave from his district during his time in jail.
Education Intelligence Agency


Phantom Student Gets Report Card

When her parents decided last summer to send Donna James to Bishop Noll Institute, a private school in Hammond, Indiana, they notified Chicago’s George Washington High School, where they had registered Donna last June. Despite the fact Dona had never attended the Chicago high school, in October her parents received a progress report card for their daughter from Washington High saying that she was “meeting course standards” in English and physical education but that she was “in danger of failing” four other courses. A letter from principal Norma Rodriguez accompanying the report card told Donna’s parents that “Each of your daughter’s teachers has met with her to discuss her progress in class” and that there was still time to correct the deficiencies.

Rodriguez blamed the incorrect progress report card on “a computer error.”
Chicago Sun-Times
October 28, 1997


Preparing for Charter Schools

Although Missouri does not yet have a charter school law, a Charter Schools Technical Assistance Conference was held in St. Louis on November 22 with Mayor Clarence Harmon as the keynote speaker. Sponsored by the Charter Schools Information Center, the Saturday workshop featured state legislators, business leaders, and national and local charter school experts, including the Center’s director Laura Friedman and Paul Seibert of Charter Consultants.

Although a charter school law failed to win legislative approval last spring, there appears to be strong support for the concept and hopes run high for passage in the coming session.
Paul Seibert


End Sought to Principal Tenure

New York City Schools Chancellor Rudy F. Crew has made it clear that he, like Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, wants to end tenure for the city’s more than 1,000 school principals and replace it with renewable contracts. The change would require further action by lawmakers in Albany, who recently changed state law to require the city school district’s 32 superintendents to report to Crew rather than to local school boards.

“It’s the key to a clear and strong accountability system,” Crew told Education Week, but school administrators condemned the proposal as “a power grab.”
Education Week
October 22, 1997