States News Roundup
Less than a third of the children age 5 or under in Maryland who have mothers in the labor force are cared for in regulated child-care arrangements, according to a recent statistical report of the Maryland Committee for Children Inc.
"The question 'Where are the rest of the children?' is one we're all grappling with," said Sandra J. Skolnik, executive director of the private, nonprofit group founded in 1945 to promote high-quality child care.
"If tomorrow in Maryland we would increase our supply of licensed day care by 100 percent, it would be immediately utilized," Ms. Skolnik said.
According to the report, 52,528 children in Maryland were in some form of regulated child care in 1982, although the mothers of 168,054 children age 5 or under worked outside the home.
The report also found that regulated child care is expensive and those who provide it are poorly paid. Two-income families, Ms. Skolnik said, spend about 10 percent of their income on child care, while single parents pay up to 30 percent of their income for similar care.
The average salary in 1983-84 for a child-care worker was $10,105; it was $13,114 for a director; $7,219 for an aide; and $7,905 for a family day-care provider, according to the report.
The Kentucky Board of Education has met with members of the state's high-school athletic association to devise ways of preventing students from missing school because of athletic events.
Alice McDonald, state superintendent of public instruction, is concerned that some athletic events disrupt academics. "She wants to have kids in school six hours a day, 175 days a year," said Barbara McDaniel, a spokeswoman for the board.
At issue is the scheduling for the state high-school basketball tournament. The board would like to see the annual four-day tournament scheduled during spring vacation so that participating teams and spectators would not miss school.
Ms. McDaniel said that some members of the athletic association have opposed the change, fearing that it would lower attendance at the tournament and make it difficult to schedule both the boys' and girls' tournaments during one week.
Nothing has been decided yet, Ms. McDaniel said. This year's tournament, set for March, will go on as scheduled.
The board and association also discussed reducing the number of athletic events allowed each year.
The Illinois Commission on the Improvement of Elementary and Secondary Education has called for more than $1.2 billion in new state spending for public schools over the next three years to fund reform recommendations.
The largest single share of the new dollars--$526 million over a three-year period--would go to raise salaries for beginning teachers to $20,000 by the 1987-88 school year, with corresponding pay hikes for experienced teachers.
The commission has also recommended spending $286 million to expand and strengthen preschool programs and to fund full-day kindergartens for those who need extra academic help. Another $23.8 million would be allocated in each of the three years for services to potential dropouts, according to the commission, which was established in 1983 by the legislature.
One of the commission's most controversial recommendations concerns retaining students at the 3rd, 6th, 8th, and 10th grades if they fall more than one year below grade level on standardized tests in reading, mathematics, and language arts. That proposal, which would not be fully implemented until 1989, would cost $2.7 million next year and $226 million in the following two years, primarily for remediation.
A Florida appeals court has ruled unanimously that judges and other public officials can collect state retirement benefits while serving in public office.
Florida's commissioner of education, Ralph D. Turlington, filed suit in the fall of 1983 to prevent the double-dipping, which was allowed under a loophole the legislature created in 1983 but closed retroactively last year.
The intent of the law, lawmakers say, was to allow retired teachers to work on school boards and in other public agencies, but they also found that judges and other top officials were about to cash in on its provisions.
The court held that the loophole, which allowed state officials over 62 years old with 30 years of service to file for pension payments, was not constitutionally prohibited by a law that says that no new benefits can be provided that threaten the actuarial soundness of the pension program. The judges said the group involved was small enough not to threaten the solvency of the retirement system, according to Nevin G. Smith, secretary of administration for the state.
Some 10 public officials, all of whom earn salaries of more than $50,000, are still eligible to draw their pensions. But because the 1984 law closed the loophole retroactively, those officials will have to file suit if they want to receive the benefits, according to Mr. Smith, who said that, thus far, nobody has done so.
In the meantime, Mr. Turlington is considering filing an appeal in the Florida Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court's decision, according to Frank A. Mirabella, his spokesman.
A state commission has proposed reducing the number of school districts in Mississippi from 154 to 92 to ensure that districts have a student population large enough to provide "effective and efficient" school programs.
The controversial proposal is the result of a mandate of the state's Education Reform Act of 1982 that the state study the governance of its school districts. The proposal would require school superintendents to be appointed by local boards of education.
More than half of Mississippi's superintendents are now elected.
It also would grant all school boards the right to levy taxes without the approval of city councils or boards of aldermen.
The plan has sparked much controversy and a legislative proposal to delay its implementation for three years, until July 1989, according to Frank I. Lovell, executive secretary for the Educational Finance Commission, which devised the plan.
School districts can submit alternative proposals to the commission through Feb. 15. Those proposals must meet the commission's consolidation guidelines, which include: ensuring that students attend the school nearest their home; minimizing disparities in tax revenue among districts within the same county; and maintaining a minority student population that reflects the minority population in the community at large.
The commission must release a final version of the plan on or before July 1; the state board of education is required to implement the plan on or before July 1, 1986.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court has ruled that a group of teachers who retired before 1974 is entitled to increased pension payments, despite claims by Providence city offi-cials that the teachers are no longer part of the city retirement system.
The decision, handed down last month, marks the end of a battle begun 10 years ago by 112 teachers to win pension increases; at least 40 of the teachers are now deceased, according to Richard G. Gelineau, the lawyer for the surviving teachers.
The suit was prompted by a bill passed by the state legislature in 1974 that increased pension benefits for city employees. However, the city refused to increase the teachers' benefits, arguing that they were excluded from the legislation because they ceased to be a part of the city's retirement system in 1949, Mr. Gelineau said.
In 1948, all Providence teachers were given the choice of becoming members of both the city and state retirement systems or transferring out entirely into the state retirement system; after 1948, all teachers were required to become members of the state retirement system, Mr. Gelineau said. The teachers involved in the case chose dual membership.
The state supreme court, reversing a lower-court decision, ruled6that the teachers were entitled to increased retirement benefits. The ruling stated that if the 1974 legislation was intended to exclude teachers from the increased benefits, it should have said so specifically.
The teachers will receive a total of between $2.5 million and $5 million, Mr. Gelineau said; the money awarded to the deceased will go to their estates or families.
New Jersey education officials have announced that they will defer efforts to prohibit three school districts from allowing students to observe a moment of silence at the start of the school day until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the practice.
According to Walter McCarroll, an assistant commissioner of education, state efforts to block the Woodbury, Pennsville, and Sayreville schools from continuing the observances have been set aside pending the Court's decision in Wallace v. Jaffree, a case testing the legality of Alabama's moment-of-silence law.
The Justices heard arguments in the Jaffree case in December and are not expected to hand down their ruling until late spring.
The three New Jersey districts have continued to start each school day with a moment of silence despite a federal district judge's October 1983 ruling that a state law allowing such observances was unconstitutional.
The state education department filed suit in September against the Woodbury district after officials there declined to stop the practice. A Glouster County Superior Court judge has indicated that he will set the case for trial following the Court's decision in Jaffree, state officials said.
Meanwhile, state legislators, who passed the moment-of-silence law in December 1982 over Gov. Thomas H. Kean's veto, appealed U.S. District Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The court, however, announced in November that it, too, will not act on the appeal until the Jaffree case is decided, Mr. McConnell said.