States News Roundup
The Georgia Supreme Court has struck down the state's compulsory-attendance law, ruling that the law's failure to define the term "private school" renders it "impermissably vague."
The case, Roemhild v. State, involved a couple in Stephens County who in 1981 decided to educate their children at home because of their religious convictions. The local school board took them to court, attempting to invoke the criminal sanctions of the compulsory-attendance law.
Under the law, children between the ages of 7 and 16 must attend a public or private school. Parents or guardians who fail to send their children to school may be fined $100 or receive a 30-day jail sentence. The law does not, however, specify any limitations on what constitutes a private school, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education said.
The court struck down the law because it failed to provide "fair notice of the behavior which is required or prohibited," and because it delegated too much authority to local courts in determining what constituted a private school, according to the spokesman.
Last year, the state attempted to issue rules that would have required a private school, in order to be recognized as such, to enroll a minimum of 15 pupils, meet the state fire code, and employ at least one college graduate. The rule was shelved at the request of Gov. Joe Frank Harris, who asked that it first be studied by a commission.
The Georgia Board of Education has no plans to try to establish new guidelines, according to Eldon Basham, legal assistant to the state superintendent of education. Mr. Ba-sham pointed out that since the statute under which they would have established a rule is now unconstitutional, he saw no means by which the board could do so.
The state legislature, which convenes in January, could pass a new attendance law, but Mr. Basham said state education officials had no way of knowing whether it will act.
The Joint Committee on Educational Technology, established earlier this year by the Connecticut Board of Education and the Board of Governors for Higher Education, has issued a set of recommendations designed to improve and better coordinate the uses of educational technology in the state.
The committee defined educational technology as "that aspect of education involved in enhancing human learning through the systematic identification, organization, utilization, and management of a full range of learning resources," according to Robert Hale, coordinator of the learning resources and technology unit for the state department of education.
Mr. Hale said the committee's recommendations address computer hardware and software needs, and also other kinds of technological delivery systems needed to assure that technologies can further the state's educational goals. He said the committee recommended that teacher-training programs be required to teach about computers and technology and that current teachers receive inservice training on the subjects.
In its examination of the schools' use of technology, the committee found that the state's 164 school districts had made some progress in establishing computer programs, but it noted that the state's public colleges and universities had done little to improve the computer literacy of students.
One of the major recommendations of the committee, according to Mr. Hale, is that the state board of education and the board of governors for higher education establish a statewide clearinghouse for information relating to educational technology. The clearinghouse would be supported by state funds and contributions from private foundations and businesses, he said.
The California Roundtable, an organization whose members include 88 major corporations in the state with an active interest in educational reform, is distributing a booklet on education to more than 225,000 corporate employees.
The 17-page booklet, entitled "Improving Student Performance in California: A Guide to Community Involvement," is designed to help the employees become acquainted with their local schools and determine educational areas that need improvement.
The booklet lists publications that may be helpful in educating the employees about school issues and provides the names and addresses of agencies and business, community and professional associations with links to education.
The booklet also outlines the Roundtable's "action plan"--a plan that defines the skills business officials expect in entry-level employees, offers short-term assistance to schools in such matters as release time for employees to teach, and lends equipment to districts.
The Roundtable identified education as an "emerging issue" three years ago because of the members' concern about "the persistent unemployment problem, particularly among minority youth in urban centers; the difficulty companies have in locating qualified entry-level employees; and an increasingly technical job market, requiring employees who have mastered the basics in high school and are therefore trainable," the booklet states.
The Roundtable's business executives gave their strong support this year to the education-reform bill, signed by Gov. George Deukmejian, which channeled an additional $800 million in state funds for public schools.
Educators do not necessarily associate high-quality teaching with advanced degrees, suggests a Florida survey of 700 teachers and school administrators.
According to the poll, conducted by the Council on Elementary Education, 49 percent of those surveyed said they thought a bachelor's degree is enough training to qualify a teacher for some kind of merit pay, while only 22 percent said they thought a master's degree should be required.
The survey's findings will be considered by a special panel formed by Gov. Robert Graham to draft a merit-pay plan for public-school teachers, according to Carey Farrell, an official with the state education department.
A career-ladder plan for Florida teachers, passed in the last legislative session, calls for graduate degrees for the top two tiers of the ladder--associate master teacher and master teacher--Mr. Farrell said. But that plan may be amended, based on new research on the issue, he said.
"A master's or doctor's degree does not prove to be a controlling factor in determining teacher effectiveness," according to the survey.
The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled last month that a student who lives in one district but chooses to attend school in another must have the consent of both districts.
The court's ruling reverses the decision made last spring by Chancery Court Judge Donald A. Clarke of Desha County, who said that students who live in one district could attend school in another if they paid tuition or had a "school guardianship" arranged.
But the high court disagreed, noting previous rulings in which both districts were required to give consent, and said that in such cases, guardianships "were established for the sole purpose of evading the law."
The case was brought by Delta Special School District No. 5, which claimed that students living within the district and attending school in McGehee School District should attend Delta schools, according to court transcripts.
The parents of one of the students, Robin Cook, paid tuition to McGehee, and two other students had guardianship arrangements, according to Gibbs Ferguson, who represented the students and their parents in the case.
"The smaller districts are engaged in a life-and-death struggle," Mr. Ferguson explained. In the last few years, these districts have had to depend increasingly on state "turnbacks"--which are calculated based on the number of children in each district--to "keep their systems surviving," he said.
"When a school district has to sue their own patrons to make them go to school," Mr. Ferguson said, "you can see something's wrong."
Prior to the institution of state turnbacks, Mr. Ferguson said, all districts agreed to all transfers. "All fair-sized districts still readily agree to anyone who wishes to transfer to another disrict for any reason whatsoever," he said, but the small districts cannot afford to lose any students because of such transfers.
Mr. Ferguson also explained the supreme court's ruling as "sending a message to the legislature to clear up the mess."
The Arkansas Legislature is currently considering a freedom-of-transfer bill that would allow students and their parents to choose the school they will attend. The bill has passed the state senate and is now in the house.
The case, Delta Special School District v. McGehee School District was first heard last year.
The parents of a California high-school football player, who was killed last year in an automobile accident during a trip sponsored by athletic recruiters from Boise State University, have sued officials of the institution.
John Hombs and Patricia Myers of Huntington Beach, Calif., charged, in a $1.76-million suit in the Fourth District State Court of Idaho, that two coaches from the school and others were negligent in the accident that killed their 17-year-old son, Matthew John Hombs.
The accident took place after a snowmobile trip attended by several high-school athletes in southern Idaho.
The parents claim that the accident, which took place on Jan. 22, about 15 miles north of Boise, resulted at least partly from the car owner's failure to put snow tires on the automobile. They also said the accident could have been avoided if the recruiters had not violated National Collegiate Athletic Association recruiting rules.
The ncaa requires recruiters to entertain athletic prospects in cities adjoining the area in which the college or university is located. The trip that involved Mr. Hombs took place 45 miles from Boise State's campus, and therefore violated the rule, the parents claim.
Since the accident, the ncaa has ruled that recruiting trips may not take place more than 30 miles from the recruiter's campus.