State News Roundup
The decline of Indiana's economy over the past decade has hurt the state's schools, according to a draft of a report by an advisory panel that was scheduled to be given to Gov. Robert D. Orr late last week.
The Governor's Select Advisory Commission on Primary and Secondary Education notes in its draft re-port that between 1974 and 1984:
Indiana fell from 19th to 25th in per-capita spending of personal income for education.
The state fell from 21st to 31st in per-capita total spending for education. The state spent $11 more per capita than the national average in 1974, and $40 less than the average this year.
The state remained 38th in spending per pupil; that represented spending of $231 below the national average in 1974, but $43 below the average in 1984.
Indiana dropped from 40th to 48th in spending by state and local government per capita for education.
"Indiana's capacity to finance government has declined substantially in recent years and is considerably below the United States average,'' the panel wrote in its report.
Saul Cooperman, the commissioner of education in New Jersey, is setting up a special unit in the education department to investigate and correct questionable fiscal and man-agement practices of local school districts.
The program, which is expected to cost about $200,000 a year, represents the first time state officials have attempted such a systematic management-review program.
"In the past, the department's investigations generally have focused on a district's fiscal operations," said Cummings A. Piatt, assistant commissioner for the department's division of executive services. "Now, we will be taking an in-depth look at questionable management and personnel practices, as well as fiscal irregularities."
"Educational improvement," he added, "can only occur when a district is properly managed. Improper management diverts valuable resources from programs intended to benefit New Jersey students."
The "compliance intervention plan," as the program is called, includes criteria for identifying districts that should be investigated, procedures that the state must follow in its investigation of a district, and the deadline by which the investigation must be completed.
The program--under which a director, with a staff of auditors, has the option to hire outside management consultants as needed--also provides follow-up procedures to en-sure a district's continued compliance with recommendations for correcting improper practices.
The Connecticut State Board of Education last week considered a recommendation that it require school systems to provide programs for gifted and talented students in all grades by the 1988-89 school year.
The proposal was included in a report by the Connecticut Department of Education on the status of gifted and talented students in the state. The report was mandated by the state's General Assembly.
The department's plan calls for the state and local school systems jointly to fund and coordinate a $23.9-million comprehensive program of services for gifted and talented students in all grades. Details of what such efforts might involve were not spelled out.
Currently, Connecticut does not mandate programs for the gifted and talented. However, 150 of the state's 168 school systems offer some sort of program for such students, according to William G. Vassar, a consultant on gifted and talented programs for the education department.
The department urged the state board to mandate programs for superior students, Mr. Vassar said, because "we're not meeting students' needs at all levels."
The board also discussed the possible establishment of a state-supported school for the arts. The board will act on the recommendation for mandated gifted and talented programs in coming months.
The Utah Supreme Court has remanded to a lower court the final decision on whether or not the State Office of Education must make pub-lic copies of a 1981 survey of student attitudes about religious and racial discrimination.
The high court recommended, however, that the questionnaires from the Box Elder School District be made public unless the court can find a compelling reason to the contrary.
The verdict ends a three-year le-gal battle over whether or not the surveys are part of the public record.
The 11-question survey was conducted to gauge students' attitudes in response to allegations that pupils experienced racial and religious discrimination, according to Douglas F. Bates, a lawyer with the state office of education.
The results of the questionnaires were summarized and made public by the office in 1981, but the office declined to release copies of the 900 questionnaires, Mr. Bates said.
"The state office argued that the forms belonged to the district," Mr. Bates said, "and that to release them would be in violation of the confidentiality promised respondents."
A Salt Lake City television station filed suit in district court against the office in 1981 on the grounds that the surveys should be available for public inspection under state law.
After the district court ruled in favor of the office, the station appealed the case to the state supreme court. The high court ruled that the questionnaires are written documents resulting from the transaction of business by a state agency and therefore should be available to any Utah citizen who wants to see them, unless it is in the public interest that they be withheld.