State News Roundup
A Texas state legislator has charged that teachers working in the state's prison schools are earning too much money.
Representative Ray Keller, chairman of the House Law Enforcement Committee, said last week that the $29,000 average annual salaries of the 371 teachers and librarians who staff the precollegiate programs in Texas's 27 prisons are "impossible to justify."
Mr. Keller also expressed disapproval of the way the current salary schedule for those who teach inmates was set, an arrangement he called "a good-ol'-boy scheme."
"The main thing is to put the process under the scrutiny of the state legislature, to see if this expenditure of tax dollars is justified," he said.
The superintendent of the school system that oversees all precollegiate instruction in the Texas prisons, however, said Mr. Keller's criticisms are unfounded.
Lane Murray, superintendent of the state-funded Windham School District, said Mr. Keller failed to realize that those who work in the state's prisons teach 12 months a year and that the somewhat higher salaries they receive help the school system' attract and retain teachers for what is often a difficult task.
The salary structure for prison teachers was approved in 1978 by Raymon Bynum, former commissioner of education, and James Es-telle, former state prison director. It tied the salaries of prison teachers to those of teachers in the highest-paying school system in the region in which a prison was located.
For School Boards
Among the education reforms enacted in Kentucky last spring was an unusual law requiring local school-board members to undergo 15 hours of training each year.
The law, described by Kentucky educators as the first of its kind in the nation, is being interpreted as allowing the state attorney general to initiate dismissal proceedings against those who do not fulfill their training requirement.
The law gives the state board of education the authority to determine the nature of the training; the board has already passed regulations directing the state's school boards' association to provide at least 10 hours of training a year to each local school-board member in the state. The other five hours of the requirement, the board ruled, can be met by attendance at national, regional, and state meetings.
According to L. Kendrick Scott, director of member services for the Kentucky School Boards Association, the board was scheduled to approve this week the content of the training to be conducted by the school-boards association.
Mr. Scott said the association will probably cover such topics as school law, school finance, school board-superintendent relations, the organization of effective meetings, and hiring and firing policies.
Mr. Scott said a task force spon-sored by the state chamber of commerce first proposed the law, which goes into effect Jan. 1. The school-boards association considers the concept "a good one," he said, and added that the law will not affect many school-board members, because they already receive 15 hours or more of training a year.
Michigan High Court
Asked To Consider
Two Michigan legislators have urged the state supreme court to reconsider its recent decision not to hear a case involving state regulation of religious schools.
The two state senators, Alan Cropsey, a Republican, and James Barcia, a Democrat, said at a press conference this month that they would back legislative resolutions asking the court to hear the case.
"Thousands of parents and thousands of children are affected by this case," Senator Cropsey said.
If the court does not act on the matter, the lawmakers said, the legislature may be required to revise the current law regarding regulation of parochial schools.
The plaintiffs in the case, the Sheridan Road Baptist Church and the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport, claim that state regulation of the schools violates the First Amendment.
Specifically at issue are state requirements that private schools hire state-certified instructors for secular subjects, offer civics courses in high school, and provide courses comparable to those in the public schools. The churches won their case at the circuit-court level but that ruling was reversed by the Michi-gan Court of Appeals last February.
Jewish School Wins
Court Fight To Open
On Sunday Mornings
New York State's highest court, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, has ruled that it is unconstitutional to prohibit a Jewish school from holding classes on a Sunday morning.
The case arose when the Kings Point Board of Trustees refused in February 1980 to grant an amendment to a zoning ordinance that would have allowed the North Shore Hebrew Academy of Great Neck to hold cultural-arts classes on Sundays. The trustees ruled that the classes would generate too much noise and cause parking problems in the neighborhood.
The state supreme court ruled in favor of the trustees in July 1983.
But now, following the higher court's ruling, the school will open on Sundays, said Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, director of the academy. "The village has no right to tell a school how to teach, when to teach, how many to teach, and what books to use," he said. "They wouldn't do that to a public school and they can't do it to a private school."
The court ruling, Rabbi Tokayer said, will enable the academy to help solve a time problem. "Every student from pre-kindergarten through the 8th grade," he explained, "takes a double program, a full secular program and a full program of Jewish studies. At the same time, we offer music, health education, gym, choir, drama, basketball, and a computer program. So you see we fight for every second."
Of Millage Proposals
Michigan voters approved some 70 percent of school-millage proposals in 1983-84, a record high for the decade, according to figures from the state department of education.
Thomas Farrell, a spokesman for the department, attributed the high approval rate to a turnaround in the national economy.
"People are beginning to feel as if they are out of the recession," he said. The economic upturn may also be responsible for an increase in state aid last year, he said, which meant local school districts could rely more on state funds and needed to make fewer millage proposals.
"People are buying American-built cars," he said. "We are a heavy manufacturing state, and don't have a diversified economy. The early 1980's and late 1970's were a difficult time for local school districts."
Mr. Farrell said the statewide approval rate for millage proposals was 58 percent in 1982-83, 52 percent in 1981-82, and 49 percent in 1980-81. He said it is not possible to translate the millage votes into dollar amounts because property values differ from district to district.
North Carolina Will
Test Career Ladder
In 16 Districts
The North Carolina State Board of Education has selected 16 school districts to test a proposed career-development plan for teachers. Fifty-six districts had applied to participate in the program, which has been criticized by teachers' unions.
For the remainder of the 1984-85 year, the two districts chosen from each of the state's eight educational regions will gear up for next year's pilot test by developing guidelines for the initial placement of teachers.
The plan proposes five career categories for teachers, with annual salaries ranging from $15,680 to $45,000. Several million dollars have been earmarked for the program, according to state education officials. If the 16 school districtsel10lfind the program viable, the state's other 126 districts will join the plan during the 1986-87 school year, as was mandated by the 1984 General Assembly in the Education Reform Act of 1984. The cost of implementing the plan in all of the school districts has not yet been estimated by state school officials.
Union officials and teachers have criticized the timing of the plan. "We're not opposed to the concept of a career-ladder plan," said John Dornan, executive secretary of the North Carolina Association of Educators, a National Education Association affiliate.
But Mr. Dornan said he thinks the test should be conducted over two years, not one, to determine how it will work. And he said he would like legislators to change the plan so that teachers who earn advanced degrees are paid higher salaries.
An 1832 Indian treaty involving the sale of school-trust lands in northern Mississippi has created widespread financial inequities between districts in 24 counties and the rest of the state, Mississippi officials have charged.
In the 1800's, the state sold the Chickasaw area's school-trust land as part of the Pontotoc Creek Treaty, according to State Auditor Ray Mavus and Secretary of State Dick Molpus, who briefed the state board on the situation last week.
As a result of the treaty, the 46 districts in the Chickasaw Cession area are losing more than $7 million a year in revenue, the officials said. The state pays the districts $62,191 annually, or about 36 cents per acre, compared with the average earning from trust lands in the 58 counties outside the Chickasaw area, which is $42 per acre.
Because the Chickasaw Cession districts "as a whole are financially unsound," Mr. Mavus said, some have engaged in "technical violations of state accounting and budgeting laws." But he said that if the technical problems were corrected, many of the districts would be unable to continue their operations because of their financial problems.
"Many of the schools will be bankrupt if we enforce the law," he said. "It has put the state auditor in a position of enforcing the law and closing public education in some school districts, or allowing these technical violations to continue. Neither solution is acceptable."
Northern Mississippi legislators are expected to review the problem at a Dec. 10 meeting in Tupelo.