States News Roundup
Unhappy about what she considers a conflict of interest on the California state board of education, Ann M. Leavenworth, president of the board, said last week that she will ask the board to consider adoption of a clear specific conflict-of-interest policy for its members.
"As it is now," she said, "we don't have a policy for ourselves, but we have a strict policy for people we appoint to the state's curriculum commission."
The issue arose earlier this month when Ms. Leavenworth charged that Uvaldo Palomares, another member of the board, is involved in a conflict of interest. Mr. Palomares, she said, sells workshops and learning materials to California school districts.
"I don't think it's appropriate for a member of the state board to go around to schools selling services and materials," Ms. Leavenworth said.
A conflict-of-interest policy for board members, she said, "should assure the public that no member of their state board of education has a personal financial interest in the public schools."
In reply to Ms. Leavenworth's charges, Mr. Palomares said she "is totally in error. There are no legal or ethical grounds to her statements." He added that "the proper authorities had helped me determine my performance on the board so there would be no conflict of interest ..."
Mr. Palomares is president and largest stockholder of the Human Development Training Institute in San Diego, which publishes instructional materials for sale to schools. He also runs workshops for school districts.
The parents of three mentally retarded children have asked the Nevada Supreme Court to decide whether the state board of education must provide special education for retarded children under the age of 3.
A lower court ruled last year that "education is not a fundamental right," and that the state was not obligated to provide special-education programs for mentally retarded children under the age of 3 even though it offers such programs for children in that age group whose vision or hearing is impaired.
The attorney for the parents argued that the state's failure to offer special-education programs for mentally retarded children under the age of 3 violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the federal law guaranteeing handicapped people access to programs receiving federal funds.
Also cited were two state laws that provide poor school districts with funds for special-education programs.
(P.L. 94-142, the federal Education for All Handicapped Children Act, requires states to provide special education for handicapped preschool children only if they provide schooling for children in the same age group who are not handicapped.)
The state Supreme Court has not yet announced whether it will hear oral arguments in the case, known as Thiessen v. Sanders.
State-operated vocational-education centers in Utah are serving too many adults and too few of the public-school students for whom they were established, legislators are complaining.
An audit commissioned by the legislature's interim committee on higher education found that in the four vocational-education centers, adults made up about 65 percent of the total enrollment.
Walter E. Ulrich, the state's director of vocational education, defended the program, saying that high-school students are given preference in admissions. He said no high-school student has been denied admission to the centers to make room for adults, who attend evening classes for a fee.
Mr. Ulrich said he believes the criticism has been orchestrated by higher-education officials who are "jealous" of the adult programs at the vocational-education centers.
Maine's Baxter School for the Deaf, under investigation by the state attorney general's office for alleged abuse of students, is now at the center of a second, unrelated controversy.
After only one week in office as the school's acting superintendent, Pamela A. Tetley, ordered that all copies of the school newspaper be confiscated because of an article that was inconsistent with the state's education policy.
Ms. Tetley said she made the decision jointly with Harold Raynolds Jr., the state commissioner of education, because the article was critical of P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, and did not reflect the viewpoint of the state education agency, which is responsible for carrying out the mandate.
"The article was also a reprint from the Peabody Journal of Education, but there was no indication that it was a reprint and not an official statement," she said.
The article was written by McCay Vernon, a psychology professor at Western Maryland College. It maintains that the law is being carried out poorly, particularly in the "mainstreaming" of deaf students into regular classes, and that both deaf and hearing students are being harmed.
Students and staff members at the school were displeased with the action, but now are reportedly willing to reprint the paper with a disclaimer and an accompanying article expressing official policy.
Ms. Tetley said she could not say whether having censored the first edition created more controversy than it was worth, but she said there appears to be no problem in circulating the new version.