District News Roundup
When voters failed this month to adopt a tax increase that would save the extracurricular programs at Prophetstown, Ill., public schools, more than 200 students in the rural district staged a "walk-out" to protest the vote.
"I don't condone it," said Jim Fouts, superintendent of the 814-student school system, "but I understand it."
The tax initiative would have raised the tax rate by 79 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
The same tax initiative resulted in a tie vote last November. School officials contested the results of the first vote and a lawsuit is pending in state court, Mr. Fouts said.
The school district will be $450,000 "in the red" at the end of this school year, Mr. Fouts said. In addition, he said, next year class sizes at the elementary-school level will be much larger, 15 of the district's 52 teachers will be laid off, and all extracurricular activities will be canceled.
"Right now, there are some pretty deep splits in the community," Mr. Fouts said, adding that he is in the process of "trying to get both sides together."
The main opposition to the tax hike came from farmers in the community, who faced a $4 per acre boost in taxes under the proposal.
Tony Denson, a former high-school football star from Steubenville, Ohio, has filed a $1.2-million suit against local and state school officials, charging that they are responsible for his inability to read and write.
The suit, filed in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court in Steubenville, is the first such case to be filed in Ohio, according to Mr. Denson's lawyer, Milton A. Hayman.
The suit says that Mr. Denson, who is now 28 and unemployed, ad-vanced from grades 1 through 12 without learning to read above the 1st-grade level or to write words "other than his own name." It contends that school officials were "negligent" in failing to provide "adequate instruction, guidance, counseling, and/or supervision in basic academic skills."
The suit charges that Mr. Denson's reading disability was never discovered and that he was permitted to advance from grade to grade although officials knew he had not mastered the skills necessary to succeed in school or to benefit from subsequent courses.
Last week, Superintendent of Schools Dean J. Keenan, a defendant in the case, denied the charges, saying Mr. Denson was recognized as being developmentally handicapped "at the 3rd-grade level." Compounding the learning disability, he said, were "attendance problems beginning in the primary grades that continued through high school."
Other defendents named in the suit include the Steubenville Board of Education, the former superintendent, the principal of Steubenville High School, and the Ohio Board of Education.
The New England Mutual Life Insurance Company has donated $1 million to the Action Center for Educational Services and Scholarships (access), a program that helps college-bound students in the Boston Public Schools overcome financial difficulties.
Contributions from other corporations are expected to raise the program's endowment to $2.5 million by 1988.
access, which is administered by the Higher Education Information Center, has been operating in the city's public schools since early March. Its goal is to make inner-city youths aware that financial aid for college is available and to help them apply for that aid, according to Mario J. Pena, the program's director.
The income from the endowment will fund a network of financial-aid advisers who will assist high-school juniors and seniors in identifying sources of financial aid and in filling out application forms. A major por-tion of the endowment's income will provide "last-dollar" scholarship assistance to students who do not receive sufficient aid from other sources, according to Edward E. Phillips, chairman and chief executive officer of New England Life.
Some 7,500 juniors and seniors will be counselled individually or through workshops in the first year of the program, officials estimate. They predict that approximately 120 scholarships averaging $500 a piece will be awarded to seniors in the 1984-85 school year.
A member of the Baltimore City Public Schools board of education has asked the city's housing department to consider helping families of special-education students relocate to surrounding counties.
Robert C. Embry Jr., a board member, said he asked the city to look into the concept because he thinks students with learning disabilities and physical handicaps could be better served by the wealthier suburban school systems. The relocation of such students and their families could also help the district reduce the cost of its special-education program, which makes up 27 percent of the budget.
Officials of the Baltimore Teachers Union have criticized Mr. Embry's request, saying it was "deplorable that a board member would want to ship city special-education students to the counties."
Alice Pinderhughes, the district's superintendent, has made no comment on Mr. Embry's suggestion, but the city's mayor, William D.er, has given some backing to consideration of the idea.
Mr. Embry, a former city housing commissioner and high-ranking federal housing official in the Carter Administration, said he would like the district to consider giving families of special-education students top priority in using federally financed rent vouchers to enable them to move to the suburbs.
About 18,000 of the district's 113,000 students are currently enrolled in special-education programs. Last year, advocates for the handicapped filed a class action against the school system for what they called its failure to carry out state and federal special-education laws. Recently, a federal judge ruled against the advocates, but an appeal is expected.
Starting next fall, Los Angeles will become one of the first school districts in the nation to offer systemwide curriculum materials about life in the nuclear age.
Baltimore school officials have also decided to offer such studies.
The Los Angeles school board recently voted to have the curriculum prepared, and plans to phase it in over the next two years. Materials will eventually be made available to teachers at all grade levels and in different disciplines, according to Jackie Goldberg, the board member who recommended the program.
Use of the materials will not be mandatory, but will be left to the discretion of teachers, she said.
Ms. Goldberg said a nuclear cur-riculum would help teachers deal with students' questions and fears about nuclear war. She noted that studies have shown that youngsters are "being immobilized by fears of a nuclear holocaust."
She said the materials, which are being prepared by district staff members, would look at nuclear issues from a variety of perspectives, an approach that had prompted heated debate among board members. "We're talking about nuclear war," she said. "I don't think there's anything value-free about that."
After the materials have been developed, the board will vote again on whether to use them.