National News Roundup
President Reagan, citing rising costs that are now putting private schools beyond the reach of many families, officially asked the Congress last week to provide tax credits of up to $300 per year for the parents of children who attend private schools.
It is of "great importance to the continued vitality of our society that parents have a meaningful choice between public education and the many forms of private education that are available," he said in a letter to the legislators.
The President noted that, at present, the parents of private-school children pay taxes for public schools and that "this additional cost has always severely limited the ability of lower-income families to choose the nonpublic educational alternative for their children."
"Rising costs are now putting private schools beyond the reach of a growing number of middle-income Americans as well," the President added.
Mr. Reagan's proposal would extend tax credits for 50 percent of private-school tuition paid by parents, with a maximum credit of $100 in fiscal 1983, $200 in 1984, and $300 in 1985. Parents with adjusted gross incomes of $40,000 or less would be eligible for the full credit, and those with incomes of between $60,000 and $40,000 could receive partial credits. Parents with incomes of more than $60,000 would not be eligible for the credits.
The President offered a similar proposal to the Congress last year, but it was never voted on.
The Reagan Administration was temporarily barred by a federal judge last week from requiring family-planning clinics that receive federal funds to notify parents when minor children receive prescription contraceptives.
U.S. District Judge Henry F. Werker issued a statement saying the Administration's rule "contradicts and subverts the intent of Congress.'' The Congress, he maintained, provided funds to the clinics to combat the problems of teen-age pregnancy.
The rule would have required the 5,000 clinics that receive funds from the Department of Health and Human Services to notify parents by mail within 10 days of providing prescription contraceptives to girls aged 17 or younger.
A preliminary injunction against the rule, which was scheduled to go into effect on Feb. 25, was issued in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of New York State.
Other lawsuits against the regulation have been filed in Tennessee, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
The Education Department now receives more complaints alleging bias against the handicapped in education programs than it does complaints regarding bias based on either race or sex, according to a new report by the Justice Department.
In the fiscal year 1976, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare received 799 race-bias complaints and 564 sex-bias complaints, compared with only 58 complaints alleging bias on the basis of handicap.
By fiscal 1982, those figures stood at 295, 140, and 674, respectively. The department noted that complaints by handicapped individuals first outstripped those by women or members of racial minorities in fiscal 1979, adding that it has retained the top spot ever since.
Overall, in fiscal 1982 federal education officials received fewer civil-rights complaints than they had during any time over the previous seven years, the report noted. In fiscal 1976, the officials received a total of 1,681 complaints. That figure peaked in fiscal 1979, when 3,431 complaints were logged, but by fiscal 1982 it had dropped to 1,427.
An attempt by a Jewish schoolteacher to win more paid personal-leave days to attend religious services has been turned down in a federal court.
Gerald Pinsker, a teacher in a Denver suburban school, objected that his district only granted two days of paid personal leave per year, not enough to attend four days of services for Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. He claimed the rule is unfair because the school calender allows Christian teachers to observe Christmas and Easter without losing pay.
A judge in U.S. District Court ruled this month, however, that the district does have the right to limit paid personal leave in these circumstances and that the regulation is not an infringement of Mr. Pinsker's First Amendment rights. The district permits unpaid time off for religious holidays.
Mr. Pinsker plans to appeal.
States News Roundup
A study conducted by the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group has found that school districts throughout the state routinely purchase art supplies for student use that contain potentially harmful chemicals.
In its study of 21 school districts, the group found dangerous chemicals that have been linked to cancer--including asbestos--in art supplies such as clay, glass, paint sprays, rubber cements, thinners, shellacs, and markers.
The group also found evidence of methylene chloride and lead in products used by elementary and high-school students. In addition to cancer, the chemical substances have been known to cause damage to the heart, lungs, and central nervous system.
Mindy S. Lubber, program director for masspirg, said that the group initiated the study after members heard reports that toxic art supplies were being used in other states. As a result of the group's study, according to Ms. Lubber, at least two of the districts have ordered art teachers to stop using the products identified in the report.
"I'm sure they are rethinking what they will buy and stock on their shelves," Ms. Lubber said. The 21 districts participating in the study have about 265,000 students--about 30 percent of all students in the state, according to Ms. Lubber.
She said the organization has drafted a bill, which is now being considered by the state legislature, that would require comprehensive labeling of art supplies.
A bill requiring that evolution be taught as theory rather than fact has been approved by the House Education Committee of the Arizona legislature.
The committee chairman, James Cooper, who sponsored the bill, said the legislation would require that, if a theory of evolution is taught in high schools, it be taught in a way that will not foster a disbelief in religion.
A similar bill was proposed last year but died in committee.
Districts News Roundup
A six-week strike against Ohio's Lake Local School District ended last week with a three-year contract providing retroactive raises for the district's teachers.
Under the terms of the new contract, a beginning teacher's salary will be raised from $12,000 to $12,850 this year, retroactive to Aug. 1, with raises to $13,600 next year and to $14,300 in 1984-1985.
The teachers--28 of whom were arrested during the divisive strike--ratified the new contract by a 118-to-10 vote.
Schools in the 3,500-student district, which is in the Akron area, remained open throughout the strike with substitute teachers and about 40 nonstriking teachers replacing their striking colleagues.
Voters in Austin, Tex., have overwhelmingly passed a $210-million bond authorization to build 13 new schools and repair and renovate all existing facilities.
Voters at all 115 of the school system's polling locations approved the bond proposal, despite some public dissatisfaction over a three-year-old, court-mandated busing program and the city's already expensive school property taxes. The election was held Feb. 5, less than a week after taxes were due.
Voters approved the acquisition of land for new elementary and secondary schools, as well as funds for their construction, by a 3-to-1 mar3gin. They approved funds for renovation projects by a 4-to-1 margin.
John Ellis, superintendent of the city's schools, credited the victory to the work of 14,000 citizens who have been studying the schools' needs for 18 months. During the weeks just before the election, a phone bank was operated daily, and parent-teacher association members conducted a door-to-door literature campaign.
New York City school principals will have less disciplinary power, and the district's superintendents will have more, under a new suspension policy devised by outgoing Schools Chancellor Frank J. Macchiarola.
Most suspensions will be imposed by high-school superintendents, who oversee the principals, and principals will be permitted to suspend students only in "emergency" situations.
Under the new disciplinary code--which was ordered by U.S. District Judge Henry F. Werker on Jan. 31--4,000 high-school students suspended between September 1978 and June 1982 may appeal their cases to the chancellor.
Lawyers representing students asserted in a 1980 class action that the old suspension rules abridged the students' due-process rights, guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
The new policy allows principals to suspend students for one to five days twice during a school year if the students present a "clear and present danger of physical injury" or prevent "operation of classes."
The policy states that suspension should be a last resort to be taken only after guidance efforts fail.
Mr. Macchiarola asserted his own disciplinary powers last week when he temporarily suspended two community school boards in Queens for disobeying an order to open schools after the recent blizzard.
Explorer Scouts have lost their undercover jobs with the Fairfax (Va.) City Police Department.
The police were using the older Boy Scouts to help them in their efforts to find liquor stores that illegally sell alcoholic beverages to minors.
Police Chief Loyd W. Smith said Explorers were the only effective undercover agents, since "all our officers are over 21."
But, citing a policy established three years ago "against the use of youth members in illegal or hazardous operations," officials of an Explorer branch of the Boy Scouts of America asked the police to stop the operations.
"We weren't aware of this policy until now," a police spokesman said. "The people who worked with us were very upset that they couldn't continue. These [Explorers] were getting a real knowledge of law enforcement."
Police in Montgomery and Fairfax Counties in Maryland, who use similar undercover operations, said the Explorer policy does not affect them since they have not recruited scouts as a group.
The decision of an Arizona school district to dismiss a teacher who married one of his students has been upheld by the Arizona Court of Appeals.
An appeals-court judge ruled late
last month that the Chandler Uni-fied School District Board of Education in Phoenix was justified in firing Ronald J. Welch, 40, who married a l7-year-old who had taken a course from him.
Mr. Welch originally denied that he was involved with the student when questioned by school officials about the relationship in late 1980. When school officials demanded he break off the relationship, the student transferred to another school, and the two were married.
The court's decision found that Mr. Welch had lied to the school board, which constituted insubordination and cause for dismissal. The decision reversed an earlier Superior Court decision that had found no evidence of lying.
As many as 40 percent of the elementary schoolchildren in Hartford, Conn., may not finish the academic year in the school in which they began it, according to projections from a study of student mobility in the city's public schools.
The study, conducted by the Hartford Board of Education, indicates that 15 percent of students changed schools between October and December 1982.
"It is possible, though we don't expect it, that the mobility rate could go to 40 percent by the end of the school year," said Eugene Green, assistant superintendent for the elementary divison of the district.
The high rate of student transfers is caused by a shortage of affordable housing, high unemployment, and changing housing patterns, which force low-income families to move, according to Mr. Green.
Educators in the city are concerned that frequent changes of school can severely hamper children's ability to learn.
The schools with the highest turnover rates generally have the lowest achievement test scores, they say.
The school system is taking several steps to limit the effect of frequent transfers on students, including standardizing the curricula throughout the city's schools and requiring that students in the same grade levels use the same textbooks, Mr. Green said.
The Texas State Board of Education has voted unanimously to open the state's textbook-selection process to people who want to speak in favor of a particular textbook. (See Education Week, Feb. 16, 1983.)
Previously, only those who objected to the textbooks were allowed to testify at the annual meetings. People for the American Way, a national civil-liberties advocacy group founded by the television producer Norman Lear, began working to have the procedures changed last year after it was denied the opportunity to testify in favor of textbooks criticized by Mel and Norma Gabler of Education Research Analysts, a nonprofit organization that reviews textbooks.
After the Feb. 12 decision, Mrs. Gabler said the new procedures will not make much difference: "I just hope they [People for the American Way] will get off my back," she said.
Texas spends $60 million each year on textbooks.
Two Summerville, S.C., teachers have dropped their appeal of a recent court decision and have agreed to pay a total of $40,000 in punitive and actual damages to the mother of a mildly retarded student whose mouth was washed with soap by the teachers as a disciplinary measure.
The teachers had been ordered by a Dorchester County, S.C., jury to pay $25,000 in actual damages and $25,000 in punitive damages to Barbara McQueen and her 18-year-old daughter, Joyce A. McQueen. (See Education Week, Dec. 22, 1982.)
Charles S. Goldberg, lawyer for the McQueens, said the settlement was reached last month to avoid a lengthy court case.
The Alaska Board of Education last week named Harold Raynolds Jr., Commissioner of Education and Cultural Services in Maine, as its top choice to head the state's education system.
If confirmed by Gov. William Sheffield, Mr. Raynolds, 57, will replace Marshall Lind, 46, who has served as Alaska's Commissioner of Education since 1971.
Mr. Raynolds, who has held his position in Maine since 1979, could begin in the new post in 60 days, according to a spokesman for the Alaska education department.
Mr. Raynolds currently receives about $43,000 annually as the top administrator of Maine's 218,000-student school system. In Alaska, he would be paid about $70,000 to oversee programs for 93,000 students and a $500-million budget.
David Bolhuis, a high-school biology instructor criticized for teaching creationism, has been named Michigan High School Science Teacher of the Year.
Mr. Bolhuis, who was selected for the award by the Michigan Science Teachers Association, has been under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union because he teaches the Biblical theory of creation along with the theory of evolution.
But the creationism presenta
tion used by Mr. Bolhuis, who teaches at Hudsonville High School, was recently pronounced acceptable by the state's department of education.
After investigating the creationism segment of the classes taught by Mr. Bolhuis and a fellow biology teacher, William Van Koughnet, the state ruled that the segments are not designed to indoctrinate students. They are "simply an attempt to present the broadest amount of information related to the topic of evolution," the state said.
Robert C. Wood, former superintendent of schools in Boston and former president of the University of Massachusetts, has been appointed the first Henry R. Luce Professor of Democratic Institutions and the Social Order at Wesleyan University, effective July 1.
Lawrence A. Cremin will leave his post as president of Teachers College at Columbia University in order to return to full-time professorial duties in September 1984.
Mr. Cremin, who has been president of Teachers College since 1974, is now working on a three-volume history of American education. The second volume was awarded the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for history.
E.C.S. Said To Lose
The Education Commission of the States reportedly has lost a federal grant to operate the National Assessment for Educational Progress, a program that accounts for almost half of the organization's annual operating budget.
According to sources familiar with the project, the Denver-based commission was informally told early last week that the next five-year grant to run the naep, which has long been the commission's largest project, would be awarded to the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J.
In fiscal year 1982, the Education Department gave the ecs $4.2 million to operate the assessment. The commission's total revenues that year were $8.7 million. The commission's assessment and evaluation division has operated the naep since July 1969.
An official at the commission who asked not to be identified said that the loss of the grant would lead to staff layoffs and possibly a restructuring of the organization's internal operations.
"Many people here were shocked ..." the official said.
No-Testing Test Comes to an End in Ohio District
School officials in the Huron, Ohio, public schools have ended a semester-long experiment in which high-school students with passing grades were exempted from end-of-term exams for those classes in which they had perfect attendance records.
But Superintendent Jeffrey Weaver discounted media reports that the plan was abandoned primarily because parents complained that students were coming to school when they were deathly ill just to get out of exams.
"If we heard complaints from parents, the complaints were primarily the 'Gee, I'm sending my kid to get prepared for college or life, and now they don't have to take exams' kind," Mr. Weaver said. "There were some who claimed their children were coming to school ill because they didn't want to take exams, but we saw nothing that was really to the detriment of the health of the ill students or others."
Rather, Mr. Weaver said, school officials decided to end the experiment because they thought that "given the increase in attendance, the negative aspects far outweighed the positive." The main negative aspect, he said, "was that it seemed to be counterproductive to the aims of education. Whether you go to college or work, life is a series of tests."
"Last year, we averaged 96.4-percent average daily attendance," he said. "Through the first semester of 1982-83, we averaged 97.6-percent attendance. The total number of exams that could have been given without the policy was 2,661. The number not taken because of policy was 1,301. So you see, it almost cut our exams in half for a 1-percent increase in attendance."
"Weighing those statistics," Mr. Weaver said, "we felt the end didn't justify the means."