States News Roundup
District Shuts Down After Voters Reject $3.45-Million Levy
The Oaklea (Ore.) Middle School, one of the schools honored last month by U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell as one of the 152 outstanding secondary schools in the nation, closed last month for lack of funds.
The school, part of the Junction City School District, had to be closed late last month when local voters refused to support a tax levy that would have provided an additional $3.45 million in operating funds.
The district is the second one in Oregon to close its schools this year. In September, schools in Lincoln County shut down for two weeks until local voters passed a levy.
The 1,700-student district, like many others in Oregon, has an inadequate permanent tax base, officials say, and every year district voters must go to the polls to provide operating funds for schools. This year's levy would have raised property taxes by 37.8 percent, according to Anthony Kennedy, an administrative aide in the district.
Property taxes account for 70 percent of the district's $6.235-million budget; the state provides 24 percent of funding; and the federal government, now provides 6 percent. Four years ago, the federal share of the district's operating budget was 12 percent.
A new levy vote will be held on Nov. 8.
The local school board is currently in the process of cutting as much as $1.2 million from the district's budget, and parents are beginning a public-relations campaign to en-courage voters to support the schools, Mr. Kennedy said.
Minn. Health Agency To Keep Supplying Birth-Control Films
Minnesota Health Department officials have announced that they will continue to provide schools and community agencies with family-planning films, despite a record number of complaints from community members about the films.
In October, the department stopped distribution of the materials following a dramatic increase in the number of written complaints from parents, legislators, and other "concerned parties," according to a department official.
The health department received between 30 and 50 inquiries regarding the films, not all of them complaints, before distribution was sus-pended. Most of the complaints focused on the explicitness of the material and the fact that the films do not address the moral issues involved in family planning, said Buddy Ferguson, information officer for the health department.
The films, Mr. Ferguson said, "restrict themselves to providing basic, technically accurate information about reproduction and contraception."
Distribution of the films was resumed after an evaluation by department officials, Mr. Ferguson said. In a press release, the officials said that "because the films are distributed only to local authorities and community groups and others who request them, it is their responsibility to review the films and consider the particular needs and values of their audience."
"It's always been our position that we were there to make films available," said Mr. Ferguson, "but it's the individual agency's responsibility to make sure the films are appropriate for the audience."
La. Governor-Elect Pledges Salary Hikes
Louisiana's governor-elect, Edwin W. Edwards, has said he will make good a campaign promise to seek higher salaries for the state's teachers. Mr. Edwards, a Democrat, served two previous terms as governor, and last month defeated the Republican incumbent, David C. Treen, by a wide margin.
During the next session of the legislature, Mr. Edwards said, he will ask lawmakers to approve a $200-million package that would provide raises for teachers, other school personnel, and state employees.
During his tenure as governor, Mr. Treen signed legislation that established a "Professional Improvement Program," a statewide inservice program for teachers that pays the cost of further schooling, and also fostered the creation of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts.
N.Y. Officials Outline Costs Of Reform Plan
New York education officials say the board of regents' proposed plan to lengthen the school year, revamp curricula in elementary and secondary schools, establish a comprehensive preschool program, and increase the testing of students would cost the state $2.9 billion over five years.
Officials in the New York Department of Education said the program would add $209 million to the education budget for 1984-85, the first year in which the proposal would be in effect. The current state budget for schools is slightly under $5 billion.
Legislative leaders and Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who would share responsibility for authorizing any increase in spending, would not say whether the state would be able to provide the extra funds. Education-department officials said the money would come from the federal, state, and local level, but they did not elaborate.
The costliest component of the plan proposed by the regents in August would be the extension of the school year. Adding 20 days to the school year--10 for instruction and 10 for inservice training for teachers--would cost $158 million in the first year and $2.037 billion over five years.
Kansas Officials Expected To Raise Graduation Standard
The Kansas Board of Education will meet later this month to take final action on a set of recommendations for increasing high-school graduation requirements.
The board voted last month to consider increasing the number of credits required for graduation from 17 to 20, starting with the class that enters the 9th grade in 1984. The board rejected other proposals that would have increased minimum requirements to 22 in the following two years.
Under the plan to be voted on in November, students would be required to earn two credits each in mathematics and science and three credits in social studies--an increase of one credit for each discipline.
Vern Stephens, a program specialist for the Kansas department of education, said the board will consider further changes in graduation requirements after it evaluates the success of the 20-credit requirement.
Board members had expressed "concern" that schools might have difficulty attracting the teachers they would need to teach the additional courses, Mr. Stephens said. He said the board might submit proposals to the state legislature in January for additional funding for mathematics and science teachers.
California Citizens Advocate Increase In Education Funds
If California ends up with a budget surplus next year, a substantial number of taxpayers would prefer that the money be used to increase state services--particularly for education--rather than having it returned to them in the form of tax rebates, according to a recent Los Angeles Times poll.
With state officials predicting that they will end up with a modest surplus at the end of the current fiscal year, and a surplus of up to $1 billion next year, pollsters asked Californians how the excess money should be disposed of.
Forty-five percent said it should be used to "increase state services," and in that broad category, more than three in 10 said schools should have priority. Seventeen percent said the funds should be held in reserve; 5 percent said the money should be used to reduce taxes; 3 percent said it should be used to retire state debts; and another 25 percent had other suggestions or were not sure what to do with the excess.
The public also seemed to question Gov. George Deukmejian's commitment to public education; nearly half of those polled said they don't expect him to provide enough money for education. (Last summer, the Governor cut all funding increases for the 1985 school year from an educational reform and financing bill.)
Governor Deukmejian told the Times earlier in October that he wants to accumulate a "prudent reserve" before talking about ways to spend extra dollars, but he said he was committed to increasing the budget for higher education. He did not indicate what he would do about budgets for elementary and secondary education.
Mich. Legislator Chooses Home Study Over Public Schools
A Michigan legislator who is a member of the state House Education Committee and his wife are teaching their two children at home because they don't think the public-schools provide a proper education.
Representative Timothy Walberg, Republican of Tipton, Mich., took his children, ages 8 and 6, out of the Onsted Community Schools in Lenawee County at the end of last year because he and his wife wanted to "provide for our children the best educational experience that we can possibly provide ... at this time of their lives."
"We're not attacking Onsted," Mr. Walberg said. "It was a general concern with the educational experience in Michigan at this time. ... Education has been hit very severely with executive-order budget cuts, deferrals of payments, and loss of funding."
Stressing that education must be made a priority in the state, and that this is "not going to take place in the next few years," Mr. Walberg said he and his wife teach their two children in a "one-room school situation." Both parents hold degrees in Christian education. A certified teacher provides occasional supervision and tests the children periodically, as required by the regulations of the state department of education.
His decision to take his children out of public schools "may not be politically wise," said the freshman legislator, but "their lives are more important than to have them sacrificed because of my career," he said.
Alabama Lt. Governor May Double as Lawyer, Panel Hints
The Alabama Ethics Commission has indicated that it is likely to rule that the Lieutenant Governor of Alabama, in his capacity as a practicing lawyer, may represent the Alabama Education Association because such a link does not represent a conflict of interest, a spokesman for the association said.
Lieut. Gov. Bill Baxley is representing the association in a case involving a law that requires school districts to deduct voluntary contributions to the association from teachers' paychecks.
The ethics commission began investigating the matter this fall at the request of several citizens. Scheduled to rule in mid-October, the commission delayed a final vote until its November meeting. But it directed its staff to add to a preliminary opinion in favor of the Lieutenant Governor some examples of similar situations in the past, the spokesman said. He added that several of Mr. Baxley's predecessors had also represented the teachers' group.
"We've maintained that being lieutenant governor in Alabama is a part-time job, and they can't deny him his right to learn his living as an attorney," the spokesman said.
Va. Governor Urges New Pilot Program For Master Teachers
Gov. Charles Robb of Virginia has proposed the conversion of one of the state's high schools into a demonstration center for the master-teacher concept and for other new teaching methods.
Varina High School near Richmond was chosen for the project because it offers a mix of students from urban, suburban, and rural homes, officials said.
Under the plan, selected master teachers from other schools will work with Varina's teaching staff and will also experiment with new materials and curricula, said Cecil Carter, deputy secretary of education for the Virginia Department of Education. The curricula will emphasize mathematics, science, and foreign languages, he said.
State officials have not yet released an estimated cost for the project, which the Governor will present to the 1984 legislature.
Utah Teachers Favor New Career Ladder, Oppose Merit Pay
Most teachers in Utah support the idea of working under a career-ladder program but they are opposed to merit pay, a recent survey conducted by the Utah Education Association shows.
Some 63.4 of the teachers surveyed favored the implementation of a career ladder for teachers, but 64.9 percent of those responding said that they did not support the introduction of a merit-pay program.
The proposal for a new career ladder was one of several recommendations forwarded to the Utah Board of Education by the Utah Commission on Excellence last month. In its report, the 24-member panel called for a three-step career ladder with a starting salary of $17,500 for all new teachers. (See Education Week, October 19, 1983.)
Teachers were divided, however, in their opinions of some of the panel's other recommendations. On the question of whether to extend the school year, 36.5 percent of respondents "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that the school year should be lengthened. About 38 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the addition of days to the school calendar.
Responding to the panel's recom-mendation that teachers be relieved of clerical and nonteaching duties, more than 70 percent said these tasks clearly interfered or somewhat interfered with teaching.
Teachers said their biggest frustrations in teaching were "discipline problems and getting students to do homework," according to the survey.
The survey also found:
Some 93 percent of the teachers favored an 11-month contract.
More than 56 percent of the teachers said there should be state scholarships to encourage prospective teachers to enter fields in which there is a shortage, such as mathematics and science.
More than half of the teachers surveyed said there "definitely" or ''probably" is an inadequate supply of textbooks in Utah's schools.
The survey results are based on responses from a scientifically selected sample involving 402 Utah teachers.