State News Roundup
The Rhode Island affiliate of the National Education Association has voted to give its leadership greater leeway in calling for statewide teachers' actions, including strikes, a state union official said last week.
Under the policy, the state union's president can call for "appropriate statewide action'' if the collective-bargaining rights of members of any local bargaining unit are violated in an "extraordinary or intolerable manner,'' said Harvey B. Press, president of the National Education Association of Rhode Island.
Such action could range from the wearing of arm bands and informational picketing to the calling of a statewide strike, Mr. Press said. "It gives us a tremendous number of options,'' he said.
Before deciding what action should be taken, the president of the N.E.A.R.I. must confer with the union's "crisis task force,'' which is made up of the presidents of all local affiliates in the state.
Since 1972, the state president has had the authority to call a statewide strike, but only if a district used non-union employees to open its schools during a job action. Such a situation has never arisen, according to Mr. Press.
The new N.E.A.R.I. policy, approved on March 21 by delegates to the state union's midyear meeting, does not affect all teachers or districts in the state.
While N.E.A. affiliates represent teachers in 31 of the state's 40 school districts, the majority of the state's 10,500 teachers belong to the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers in the larger districts.
Despite evidence that few Mississippi school districts have a policy against prayer in the schools, the state board of education has decided it is unnecessary to remind local districts that the practice is unconstitutional.
The state superintendent of education, Richard Boyd, brought the issue before the board late last month, following reports that students in the Madison County school district were praying in the schools.
But board members decided not to take any action because they believed the prohibition against school prayer was well known, according to Andrew Mullins, a spokesman for the board. "We assume that if we've received no complaints, there's no need to remind the districts,'' he said.
Despite the 1962 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court banning prayer in public schools, the Mississippi House and Senate approved a resolution late last month calling on the Congress to amend the Constitution to allow it. The measure passed in the state's higher chamber by a vote of 48-1; the house vote was 107-6.
According to a survey conducted by the Jackson, Miss., newspaper, The Clarion Ledger, very few districts in the state have a formal policy banning prayer in the schools.
"Mississippians don't chose to believe that this is the law of the land,'' said Hilary Chiz, the executive director of the Mississippi chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The State of Illinois should boost funding for its program serving gifted and talented students, and should require all districts to participate, according to a preliminary study by the state department of education.
The study, released last month, found that the $9 million the state currently provides to districts for the program is insufficient to ensure that all eligible students receive adequate services.
"The funding has driven the program,'' rather than the other way around, the department report concluded.
Moreover, the department found, nearly 150 of the state's 994 districts, enrolling an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 gifted and talented students, have elected not to participate in the program.
A final report will be submitted to the full state board later this spring, according to Wilma J. Lund, gifted-education coordinator in the department.