States News Roundup
Lawyers for the state of Virginia will ask a federal district court in Richmond this week to reject a suit by the city's school board seeking approximately $47 million for programs to help students overcome the effects of past state-mandated segregation.
According to papers filed with the court last month in Bradley v. Robb, the state contends that the Richmond school board has presented insufficient evidence supporting its position that the state should be held liable for the funding of desegregation-related compensatory-education programs. In addition, the state argues that recent gains in scores by Richmond students on standardized tests indicate that the compensatory programs are unnecessary.
The board is contending that although average scores on standardized tests recently have risen somewhat, Richmond students still rank far behind students elsewhere in the state in academic achievement, rates of high-school completion, and percentages of students continuing their educations. Such discrepancies, it maintains, are directly attributable to the state's history of resistance to public-school desegregation.
At present, the school district's student enrollment is 86 percent black, up from about 70 percent in 1972. Almost one-third of city's schools have enrollments that are more than 96 percent black.
The Connecticut Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit last month that questioned the constitutionality of a state law mandating binding arbitration in certain contract disputes between teachers' unions and school boards.
In an Oct. 22 ruling, the high4court dismissed the suit brought by the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education on procedural grounds, without considering the merits of the group's arguments. The justices held that in 1980 a superior-court judge incorrectly denied a motion by the Connecticut Education Association that sought to have the case dismissed.
In its 1980 motion, the teachers' union contended that the school boards did not have the power to sue the state because they were creatures of state government.
Under the six-year-old provision of the state's Teacher Negotiations Act, disputes over issues such as salaries, benefits, and grievance procedures that cannot be resolved through bargaining between unions and school boards are decided by three-member panels of arbitrators appointed by the governor. The school-boards' group contends that more than 90 percent of all salary issues presented to arbitrators have been decided in the unions' favor.
The school boards unsuccessfully argued before the high court that the binding-arbitration law has unconstitutionally eroded local control over educational matters.
The Oregon Education Association has filed an initiative petition that would ask citizens to impose a statewide 5-percent sales tax to pay for public schools and reduce property taxes.
The union's action comes one month after voters rejected a 5-percent sales tax that would have provided as much as $700 million per year for the public schools.
But a poll last month commissioned by the 27,000-member union indicates that "perhaps the concept of a sales tax wasn't what the public was opposed to as much as the particular plan [on the ballot in September]," said Sandy Ellis, president of the oea
The oea's proposal calls for 70 percent of the revenue gathered from the tax to go to the public schools and 30 percent to be used to lower property taxes for renters and homeowners. The union's proposal also places a 1.5-percent limit on the growth of property taxes.
The oea will decide at its Dec. 14 board meeting whether to proceed with gathering the more than 83,000 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot.
Oregonians have voted down sales-tax proposals seven times in the last 52 years.
In a related development, as citizens in 29 districts prepared to go to the polls to vote in levy requests this week, Superintendent of Public Instruction Verne A. Duncan called a news conference to dispute a report showing Oregon with the highest per-pupil cost among six Western states.
The report, released by the Foundation for Oregon Research and Education, a private organization, said it costs $3,963 a year to educate each of the state's 500,000 public-school students.
Mr. Duncan urged voters to disregard the figures.