City News Roundup
The Chicago Board of Education has proposed an extensive system of voluntary "magnet schools," rather than mandatory busing, as a means of desegregating the 443,000-student system.
In its plan, submitted late last month to U.S. District Judge Milton I. Shadur, the board proposes to establish 70 special schools that theoretically would attract students of all races--including whites who live in suburban school districts.
The proposal resulted from an agreement reached last fall between the school system and the U.S. Department of Justice. If Judge Shadur approves the plan, it is to go into effect next fall.
But because some 350 of the city's 567 public schools would remain virtually all-black or all-Hispanic, while other schools would remain up to 70 percent white, local civil-rights leaders have assailed the plan. Voluntary approaches have been tried before in the city's 20-year-long desegregation battle, some civil-rights groups contend, and have failed to bring about substantial desegregation.
Whites now make up only 17.2 percent of the Chicago schools' enrollment, according to figures released last month by the board. Nearly 61 percent of the city's students are black, and 19.6 percent are Hispanic.
A legislative bill that would have stripped the Boston school committee of its authority over school personnel and financial matters, while extending the powers of the city's school superintendent, was quashed last week when Gov. Edward J. King failed to sign the measure before the end of the 1981 legislative session on Jan. 5.
The bill, a home-rule petition called the Boston Financial Plan, was an amended version of a petition submitted to the legislature last September by Boston's mayor and city council.
In addition to the controversial provision giving "extraordinary powers" to the school superintendent, the measure would have allowed city officials to borrow $75 million to pay back commercial property owners who were overcharged on their property-tax bills and to rehire police officers and firefighters who were laid off.
Governor King had drafted a compromise bill which also failed to win the legislature's approval before the expiration of the 1981 session. City officials are expected to resubmit the measure during the 1982 legislative session.
However, according to Ian Forman, a spokesman for the school district, the provision covering the superintendent may be eliminated because of the progress made by school administrators in managing the schools' financial affairs.
The District of Columbia's new superintendent, Floretta D. McKenzie--who three months ago proposed a school budget $40 million over the preliminary ceiling set by the mayor--recently found that such audacity can pay off.
Although the superintendent will not get all of the extra funds she asked for, the schools are scheduled to receive an additional $14.3 million, bringing the budget to $249.5 million.
A spokesman said Ms. McKenzie took the gesture by Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. "as a sign that the mayor is willing to work through the problems in the school system."
An additional sign of future cooperation between the mayor and school officials occurred last week: A new majority on the school board elected the Rev. David H. Eaton, pastor of Mayor Barry's church, as school board president.
Parents of children participating in a year-round schooling schedule in the Los Angeles Unified School District approve of the system, according to an education researcher at the University of Southern California.
Joyce King-Stoops, an assistant dean of the university's school of education, interviewed 150 parents of children in 17 of the 90 schools that have been operating under the system for at least a year.
Ms. King-Stoops said most of the parents believe their children are learning more and behaving better in the year-round program.
The new school year was introduced to offset overcrowding, primarily in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods. Students attend 45-day terms with a 15-day break between terms.
Under the plan, Ms. King-Stoops said, a school that ordinarily would serve 900 students now serves 1,200.
"And most of the parents said the new schedule does not interfere with their vacations," she said. "Many of them said they don't take vacations."
The most frequent complaint was about the lack of air-conditioning in some schools.
The school committee in Portland, Me., has added economics to its basic curriculum, launching an ambitious effort to teach 13 years of supply and demand beginning in kindergarten.
A nine-member curriculum committee has developed a guidebook to help teachers integrate economics education into the social-studies courses for kindergarten through grade 12.
Basic economic concepts such as wants, needs, and scarcity of goods and services will be taught in the early grades, giving teachers in succeeding grades a foundation on which to build. By grade six, students will be learning about different types of economic systems, and by grade 10, they will study how major national and international financial decisions are made and how public funds are allocated.
"The students who progress through this system," says the guidebook, "will then be able to make wise personal and national economic choices based on a clear understanding of our economic system."
The curriculum guide was developed with the help of the Maine Council on Economic Education, a nonprofit organization receiving support from the University of Maine. A bank paid for the project after a survey in the Portland schools indicated that economics was being taught with a "hit-or-miss" approach.
"Some teachers did a lot, some did none," noted Maryjane McCalmon, a history teacher who headed the curriculum committee.
The Hartford, Conn., school board has asked the city council to provide funds for police to patrol in and around the city's three public high schools in the wake of allegations that Superintendent Hernan LaFontaine has failed to put into effect a system-wide security policy.
Thomas B. McBride, president of the school board, cited "repeated incidents" of gang activity, trespassing, and the use of dangerous weapons in the schools.
Mr. LaFontaine, however, insists that the schools are "generally in good order," even though the board felt it necessary to adopt a security policy 18 months ago that called for establishing a force of uniformed guards authorized to make arrests.
Funds set aside for public safety have been used for new fences around school parking lots and for five private security guards assigned to various schools throughout the city, according to Mr. McBride.