States News Roundup
Gov. Robert Graham's proposed budget for the fiscal year 1983 would provide a substantial increase in funding for education. In his proposal, presented to the Florida legislature last week, the Governor recommended $3.4 billion for education--up $350 million from the current budget.
The increased spending would be paid for through a series of proposed tax increases, including an increased tax on alcoholic beverages, a rise in taxes on stocks and bonds, and an increase in the "required local effort"--that is, property taxes for public education. The property-tax provision would bring in an estimated $241 million in fiscal 1983, and $194 million the following year.
The new funds would be used for a variety of programs, some of which were suggested by a recent report issued by the Governor's Commission on Secondary Education, according to a spokesman for Governor Graham.
Teachers' salaries would go up an average of about $4,000 over the next two years, with $1,800 of that to be provided next school year. Currently, the average salary for teachers in the state is $18,540; by the end of fiscal 1983, it would increase to $20,121.
The Governor's proposal also in-cludes several measures designed to improve mathematics and science education. During fiscal 1983, the Governor proposes to spend $2.87 million to fund inservice programs for teachers in these fields. Another $2.4 million would be spent on a mathematics and science "adjunct faculty" program, which would bring technically trained industry personnel into the schools for a year. The Governor has also proposed a summer enrichment program for students who have a strong interest in these fields and a tutorial program that would pay teachers to work after school with students who wanted to do extra work in these areas.
The Ohio Senate last week approved a permanent 90-percent increase in the state's personal income tax, putting into place the last major piece of Gov. Richard F. Celeste's package of budget-balancing tax hikes and spending reductions.
Although the proceeds from the income-tax increase will not avert a $190-million cut in aid to elementary and secondary education this spring, part of the new revenue will be used to replenish the state's emergency loan fund for schools. State officials expect high demand for the emergency loans as districts try to cope with a 9-percent average cut in general state aid for the re-mainder of this school year.
A statewide coalition of public-education groups reluctantly endorsed the cuts, saying that this late in the fiscal year, the Governor and legislature had no choice but to trim education spending.
In an effort to meet the growing demand for science and mathematics teachers, the Massachusetts Department of Education will establish a clearinghouse that will collect and distribute information on prospective teachers, jobs, exemplary programs, and equipment. The clearinghouse may begin operating in the fall of 1983, according to a spokesman for the education department.
The plan, which received the preliminary approval of the state board of education last month, was prompted by a department report on the supply of and demand for science and mathematics teachers.
According to that report, Massachusetts now has a slight surplus of science and mathematics teachers because of layoffs prompted by Proposition 2. About 300 science and mathematics teachers were laid off following the passage of the tax-limitation measure.
However, the surplus won't last long, officials say, given the increasing personnel demands of in-dustry and the likelihood that schools will require students to take more science and mathematics courses.
The clearinghouse will also work with industry and foster efforts to develop personnel-exchange programs and related measures.
In an opinion that defines for the first time the extent of a teacher's responsibility to supervise students, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled this month that an instructor in Charlotte was not responsible for an accident that left a pupil blind in one eye.
The court said the foreseeability of harm to students in the class determines the extent of the teacher's duty to safeguard them from dangerous acts of fellow students.
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Larry James of Charlotte, father of Kristin Marie James, who was injured in February 1978 while her 6th-grade teacher was out of the classroom. During the teacher's absence, two students began "sword fighting" with their pencils, and one of the pencils flew back and hit Kristin in her left eye. She ultimately lost the sight in that eye.
Mr. James sued the teacher, Susan Stewart, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, claiming that his daughter's injury was caused by the defendants' negligence.
Writing for the court, Judge Hugh A. Wells said the controlling question was whether Ms. Stewart "was under a duty to remain in her classroom at all times while her pupils were present in the class." The court determined that she was not.
The court noted that there were no previous holdings on that question and that other states had "significantly different standards of care required of public-school teachers."
Several dozen schools across the midwest were closed temporarily late last month, and those that remained open reported unusually high rates of absenteeism, as a strain of influenza identified as type A Bangkok swept across the region.
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, the federal agency that monitors infectious diseases, reported scattered school closings nationwide and a higher-than-normal number of flu-related deaths.
Bangkok A, which is characterized by chills, high fevers, general body aches, and coughing, has been the most common form of influenza reported in the past few weeks, said Betty B. Hooper, a spokesman for the agency.
Public-health officials warn against treating children who may have influenza with aspirin or related drugs because of a suspected link to Reye's syndrome, a condition that may cause death or brain damage.
As of mid-February, 15 states had reported regional outbreaks of influenza and 22 had reported sporadic cases, Ms. Hooper said. "It's very difficult to assess [how widespread the disease is] in the middle of the season," she said, in part because coun-ty and state health departments are not required to record and report each case. Some states, she added, were still reporting their first cases last week, indicating that the disease was continuing to spread.
A recent decision by the Vermont Supreme Court invalidating state regulations governing the licensing of polygraphers--administrators of lie-detector tests--has raised legal questions about the Vermont Board of Education's authority to certify teachers.
The state attorney general's office has filed a motion asking to reargue several issues not resolved by the the state supreme court's earlier decision, according to Robert B. Luce, general counsel for the state department of education.
In its decision last month, the court ruled that the state's authority to license polygraphers automatically expired in 1981, six years after it initially took effect, under provisions of the "Sunset Law." Enacted in 1977, that law limited state agencies' licensing authority to six years, unless acted on by the state legislature, according to Mr. Luce.
The state board of education's authority in teacher-certification matters is in question, Mr. Luce said, because that law was enacted in 1969 and amended in 1975. In ruling that the Sunset Law was "clearly a catch-all provision," the court decision may also have invalidated the teacher-certification law.
A local creationism controversy in Michigan may be resolved without legal action, according to Howard L. Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
The group recently filed a complaint with the state attorney general over a course on "controversies in science" being taught in the Western School District in Jackson County, Mr. Simon said.
A panel of educators sent by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Phillip E. Runkel to evaluate the course concluded earlier this month that it made a "biased presentation toward creationism."
Mr. Runkel has been negotiating with the district, and the matter may be settled soon, Mr. Simon said.
Nearly 500 high-school students gathered on the steps of the Boise, Idaho, statehouse during a lunch hour late last month to protest proposed cuts in the education budget.
They weren't left standing long. Gov. John V. Evans himself came out to speak with them and told them he supported their request, said Richard Kuntz, an administrator in the Boise Independent School District.
And soon afterwards, Governor Evans vetoed a $7-million cut in education funds proposed by the legislature, Mr. Kuntz added. The legislature, however, could override his veto.
At the request of a coalition of Mississippi branches of the naacp, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has begun an investigation into allegations of racial discrimination in the Calhoun County, Miss., public schools.
The district has a "notorious and longstanding history" of racially discriminatory practices against black students and teachers, according to Morris Kinsey, chairman of the naacp of Mississippi's education committee.
The investigation, which began Feb. 14, was prompted by the naacp's charges that the school district's practices are in violation of several federal statutes, as well as a 1970 desegregation order. On the basis of its own investigation of the district, the group alleges that the district has failed to hire and promote black administrators and teachers and that black teachers are placed in "less stable," federally funded positions that are more likely to be cut, according to Mr. Kinsey.
Currently, the district employs 37 black teachers and 133 white teachers. Nearly 40 percent of the district's students are black.
The group also alleges that the district discriminates against black students in its disciplinary practices, its placement of students in special-education programs and gifted and talented programs, and its transportation of pupils.
According to Mr. Kinsey, the district maintains a dual busing system with separate buses for black and white students.
A separate investigation is being conducted by the Justice Department, Mr. Kinsey said.