States News Roundup
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has upheld a Texas compulsory-attendance law that requires the prosecution of parents who do not send their children to state-approved schools.
The court ruled unanimously last month that two sets of parents from Angleton, Tex., who educated their children at home using a Bible-based curriculum provided by Liberty Academy, a correspondence school in Illinois, had violated state law and could be prosecuted.
The parents had filed suit seeking a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the compulsory-attendance statute on the grounds that the law "is vague in failing to clearly define 'school"' and that it violates the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.
Gov. William A. O'Neill of Connecticut has recommended that starting teachers be paid a minimum salary of $19,500 by 1986-87.
The Governor's recommendations, which will be presented to lawmakers in February, are based on a report by the Connecticut Commission on Equity and Excellence in Education, a 19-member panel he appointed in 1984. His recommendation includes a minimum base salary of $18,500, plus a cost-of-living increase worth $1,000.
Starting salaries in the state now range from $11,497 to $20,322, according to David J. McQuade, ad-ministrative aide for programs and policies in the Governor's office.
Mr. O'Neill will also recommend that the state allocate funds to municipalities as part of a "salary-inducement program" to increase the wages paid to experienced teachers. As part of that plan, Mr. McQuade explained, teachers with 14 years of experience and their 6th-year certificate would make $38,000 to $39,000 a year.
The program, which would be phased in over a three-year period, will cost an estimated $50 million a year, Mr. McQuade said. Through that and other programs, he added, the Governor hopes to bring state funding of education from the current 40 percent level to 50 percent.
Mr. O'Neill also recommended that the state establish local "professional-standards committees" to address issues of teacher retention, tenure, and merit pay. And he called for mentor-teacher programs and a five-year training requirement for teaching certificates.
A federal district judge has upheld an Iowa law requiring private and parochial schools to use state-certified teachers and to report the names of children attending the schools to the local school board.
The pastors of the Fellowship Baptist Church in Marshalltown and Calvary Baptist Church in Keokuk and the parents of children enrolled in the churches' schools argued unsuccessfully that the Iowa statute violated their First Amendment right to practice religion freely.
"While certification may not be infallible and does not assure us that every teacher is a good teacher, it appears to be the best method now available to satisfy the state's primary interest in seeing that all chil-dren are taught by capable persons,"U.S. District Judge William Stuart.
The judge also ruled that the plaintiffs did not qualify for exemption from education law under another Iowa statute allowing groups and individuals with "sincerely held" religious beliefs to educate their children without having to report to the state. The exemption statute was established to protect the religious rights of the Amish community.
But Judge Stuart struck down as "unconstitutionally vague" a part of the education statute requiring that students in private and parochial schools receive an education "equivalent" to that of students in public schools.
A year after the state board of education imposed new graduation requirements, the Illinois Board of Higher Education has begun to consider a proposal that would require entering students to have completed an even more rigorous high-school curriculum.
According to John Huther, the deputy director for policy studies for the higher-education board, the new entrance standards would ensure that college-bound high-school students pursue a more rigorous curriculum that would "better prepare them for baccalaureate work."
Under the proposal, incoming freshmen in 1990 and transfer students from community colleges would have to take about one more course in each core subject area than is now required for high-school graduation--except for science, in which they would have to take two more courses. Only courses drawn from a list developed by the state board would be accepted.
The new requirements would include: four years of English, three years each of social studies, mathematics, and science, and two years of a foreign language, music, or art.
Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts has visited two elementary-school classrooms, accompanied by former Boston Celtic M.L. Carr, to kick off the second year of his campaign against drug use among his state's students.
The emphasis in the second year of the Governor's Alliance Against Drugs will be on implementing drug education in the elementary schools, according to Barbara Kopans, a spokesman for the state department of public safety. A state survey found that one in three high-school students is a regular user of illicit substances, and that 28 percent of those polled said they had first used drugs at the age of 12 or younger.
The program is designed to give students reasons to say "no" when faced with peer pressure to try illicit drugs, and to teach them how to communicate with their parents about drug issues, Ms. Kopans said.
The program also encourages school officials and police to work together to develop guidelines for handling students with drug problems, she added.
In addition to providing state funding for the program, Governor Dukakis hopes to raise $500,000 from private-sector contributions to help pay for curriculum materials, Ms. Kopans said.
A 16-year-old high-school student from Tallahassee faces felony charges stemming from his use of a home computer to gain access to budget files in the Florida Department of Education's computer.
According to a spokesman for the security force for state office buildings, the "hacker" called the telephone number of the department's computer repeatedly for weeks before discovering its electronic password: Tom.
When the student entered the system, a security device within the computer recognized the unauthorized entry and stopped all work in progress, according to a department official.
On the student's next attempt, the police were waiting with a court-ordered wiretap and the call was traced to his home, police said.
The files that the student entered contained budget information for state universities and public schools, said Thomas Hanna, a policy analyst with the department. No data were altered, but three computer operators spent two days reloading the machine's software, which was jumbled by the security shutdown, Mr. Hanna said.
Additional security measures have been added to prevent further break-ins, he added.
A police spokesman said the youth has been charged with a third-degree felony and faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
The Pennsylvania legislature has begun to consider a tax plan that would allow communities to offset residential property taxes that support schools by enacting an equivalent tax on local personal income.
The measure, HB 1415, contains an "all or nothing" clause that requires communities to forego the collection of property taxes on residences if they levy a tax on personal income. All communities would continue to levy a property tax, but rather than collect it they could raise an equal amount of revenue by taxing local income.
"The key element of the bill that makes it different from any in the nation and that makes it palatable is the equivalency," said William F. Hughes, assistant executive director of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, who testified late last month in favor of a modified version of the bill.
Mr. Hughes said an income tax would relieve the pressure on property taxes and would make it easier for districts to raise money for schools.
"The real problem in our state is that the state underfunds education," said David Wazeter, the assistant director of communications for the psea The state's share of education costs has declined from 55 percent to 42 percent in the last 12 years, creating greater dependence on the property tax, he said.
Although the psea supports the concept of the bill, Mr. Hughes testified that it would prefer legislation that allows communities to collect a mix of taxes on property and income.
The University of North Carolina's board of governors has appointed a task force to examine the preparation of teachers in the state.
The 21-member task force--including local school administrators, public-school teachers, members of the state board of education, and representatives from higher education--met for the first time last week. It is scheduled to report to the legislature by January 1987.
The task force's assignment is to: investigate ways to make teacher-education programs more rigorous, review current standards for approving such programs, devise 10-year projections of teacher shortages and surpluses in North Carolina, and examine alternative routes for preparing individuals to become teachers.
"I think we're interested not only in improving the quality of teacher education but perhaps in revising the way in which teacher-education programs are organized and conducted," said Donald J. Stedman, staff director for the task force and associate vice president of the University of North Carolina system.
He added that any recommendations made by the task force will include suggested funding levels needed to carry them out.
The Association for Retarded Citizens of Alabama has filed suit in federal court charging that the state is not spending enough money on handicapped students.
The suit charges that the failure to provide funding to adequately serve about 6,000 of the state's 88,000 special-education students constitutes a violation of P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The lawsuit does not argue that the state has misappropriated the funds, but rather that it is simply not allocating enough money to serve the students, according to Douglas F. Sanford, executive director of the association.
Mr. Sanford said the state needs approximately 518 additional teachers to serve special-education students. It now has about 4,500, he said.
Wayne Teague, state superintendent of education, said in a statement that Alabama has made "reasonable efforts to improve the status of special-education students" and that "continuing efforts will be a high priority."
Education-school officials at the University of Wisconsin estimate it will cost the university $2.4 million to $2.6 million a year to implement proposed state standards for teacher education.
The proposed rules, which will be discussed at public hearings before being submitted to the legislature, would require colleges to test education students in basic skills and content areas and to increase student-teaching hours. The standards would also require prospective teachers to maintain a 3.0 average in education classes.
The standards will increase university paperwork and infringe on faculty governance, according to Martha R. Bagley, assistant dean of the of education school at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. "Education curricula should be the university's decision, not the state's,'' she said.
Debra J. Byars, director of the bureau for policy and budget of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, said the state superintendent, Herbert Grover, proposed new standards because education-school officials had complained that the current rules were not substantial.
In Wisconsin, any graduate of a teacher-education program in the state is automatically eligible for certification.
A grand jury has indicted Superintendent of Education Thomas G. Clausen of Louisiana on charges of malfeasance, payroll fraud, and obstruction of justice. If convicted of all three charges, he could serve a maximum of 27 years in prison and face up to $50,000 in fines.
The state chief was charged Sept. 26 by a grand jury in East Baton Rouge Parish. An investigation begun last May alleged that Mr. Clausen violated state law by hiring an individual who performed no work or "grossly inadequate work" for the pay received.
The individual in question, C.G. Babin Jr., and another former department employee, Paul Fresina Jr., have been indicted on charges of payroll fraud. Deputy Superintendent James Knotts was indicted on charges of payroll fraud, malfeasance, obstruction of justice, and perjury.
Mr. Clausen, who was elected in 1983, was released after posting a $40,000 bond. An arraignment hearing is scheduled for Oct. 29.
In a separate case, the Louisiana Civil Service Commission this summer charged Mr. Clausen and Mr. Knotts with illegal hiring practices under the state's civil-service laws. A hearing on those charges probably will not occur until the criminal charges are resolved, said Robert R. Boland Jr., a lawyer with the commission.
The Tennessee Department of Human Services has launched a pilot program to address teen-age pregnancy and such related problems as increased dropout rates, infant mortality, and child abuse and neglect.
Jan Scanlon, a spokesman for the department, described the rate of teen-age pregnancy in the state as "a major problem." In 1983, she noted, there were 6,062 pregnancies to teen-agers between 10 and 174years of age, and 25 percent of those who have babies become pregnant again within one year.
The program, which will be based in Nashville and Memphis, where the problem is the most severe, will focus on three areas: providing medical care for the mother and baby during and after the pregnancy; counseling the mother and providing information about the options available to her; and providing parent-education support groups for teen-age mothers.
Scheduled to begin this month, the project is designed to coordinate the network of services available to pregnant teen-agers, according to Ms. Scanlon. In some cases, the project will utilize public-school facilities, she said.