States News Roundup
A substantial portion of Wisconsin's public schools already comply with a recently passed state law requiring a minimum six-hour day, according to a survey by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards completed last month.
Ninety-eight percent of the 216 school-board presidents surveyed--representing about half of the school boards in the state--said their districts are already in compliance with the law, which will not go into effect until 1988.
The new law, passed in July, requires a six-hour school day (excluding lunch) for elementary schools and six and one-half hours for high schools.
The survey also found that 48 percent of the state's districts have a program to address the dropout problem and 24 percent have dropped or are considering dropping vocational-education courses from their curriculum.
Thirty-five percent of the board presidents said that complying with a new state law mandating the implementation of tougher high-school graduation standards has increased costs for their district.
The North Carolina Board of Education has called for a study to determine the "optimal" number of public-school systems for the state. But some critics have vowed to oppose any legislation that would remove decisionmaking power from local districts.
"We have welcomed the study," said Eugene E. Causby, executive director of the North Carolina School Boards Association. "At the same time, we have reiterated our strong belief that school organization should remain, as it currently is, a local decision."
North Carolina has 100 counties and 141 local school systems, said Howard Maniloff, special assistant to the state superintendent of education. "There's been some interest in the legislature for several years in looking at whether we should have simply 100 county school systems in order to save money," he said.
The board noted in its resolution, which passed unanimously, that it has a responsibility to find the most "cost-efficient and effective" method of providing education to North Carolina's children, particularly in light of the state's new comprehensive school-reform law. The measure is expected to cost the state more than $200 million in the next two years and to take eight years to implement fully.
The study, to be presented to the board in March, most likely will result in an attempt in the next legis-lative session to force some school systems to merge, Mr. Maniloff said.
The Mississippi American Federation of Teachers will push a bill during the state's next legislative session that would link students' eligibility for extracurricular activities to their classroom achievement, a union official said last week.
Maryann Graczyk, president of the 3,500-member maft, the state's second largest teachers' union, said the union will probably advocate a law similar to Texas's controversial "no-pass, no-play" rule, which was recently upheld by that state's supreme court. The Texas rule prevents students who fail one course from participating in most extracurricular activities.
Ms. Graczyk said the time has come for Mississippi's education reformers to stop blaming teachers for the schools' shortcomings and start insisting that "students take greater responsibility for their learning."
The maft's 150 delegates will meet next month at the union's convention to devise a resolution on the eligibility issue, Ms. Graczyk said. From that resolution, the union will draft a bill and have it introduced during next year's legislative session, she said.
Jerry L. Caruthers, director of programs for the Mississippi Association of Educators, the state's 13,000-member National Education Association affiliate, said that his union supports the no-pass, no-play concept but would expect such guidelines to come from the state board of education and not from the legislature.
Marching-band leaders in school districts throughout Texas have set earlier districtwide competition dates to ensure that all their students can compete despite the8state's new no-pass, no-play rule.
"There's no doubt they've moved [the date] forward so they can have all of their students participate in the event," said Richard Floyd, director of music activities for the University Interscholastic League, which oversees all interscholastic competitions in Texas.
"But," he added, "they are certainly not, in my opinion, skirting the [no-pass, no-play] rule because they are very much within the guidelines the state has set."
Under the rule, all students must pass every subject they are taking with a grade of 70 or better to participate in extracurricular activities. The rule takes effect after the first six-week grading period.
Students who fail to achieve passing grades in one six-week grading period are barred from activities for the next six-week grading period. The students can resume participation in the following grading period if they pass all their courses.
According to Mr. Floyd, 10 of 22 school districts moved their district-level marching-band competition dates up this year to fall within the first six-week marking period.
Subsequent regional and state competitions however, which are open to bands that rate as outstanding in district competition, will be affected by the eligibility rule, he said.
Mr. Floyd said about 82,500 Texas students participate in marching bands.
The Florida State Board of Education unanimously voted this month to continue using existing teacher-certification rules, even though the law governing those regulations expires Oct. 1.
The decision was sharply criticized by Florida's teachers' unions, which claim Gov. Robert Graham and his cabinet lack the authority to set teacher standards in the absence of a state law. Union officials have said that without authorizing legislation the rules will not hold up in court.
This summer, the Governor vetoed a bill approved by the 1985 legislature that would have established stricter licensing standards for teachers. He said the new standards were not rigorous enough for those already certified.
In passing the current motion, the board noted that existing certification rules "are presumptively valid until there is judicial determination otherwise." It added that without the current rules there would be no statewide certification program in Florida, a result that would be "detrimental" to education.
At the Sept. 5 board meeting, the Governor announced that he had appointed Don Shoemaker, former editor of the Miami Herald and former chairman of the Florida Education Council, to head a new committee to review teacher certification and other education issues in Florida.
The panel will report in time for the 1986 legislative session next spring. The unions had asked Governor Graham to call a special session of the legislature before then to write new standards. But the Governor does not believe a special session is needed, according to his aides.