States News Roundup
Public-school teachers in Delaware must spend at least 7 hours a day at school, the same amount of time other state employees are required to spend at work, under a new policy that has drawn sharp criticism from the state teachers' union.
Prior to the adoption last month of a statewide definition of a teacher's workday by the Delaware Board of Education, the number of hours teachers were required to be at school each day was set by local districts, usually through contract negotiations.
The new rule "is part of a campaign by the board to advance the professional standing of teachers," said Ambrose W. Hagarty, a spokesman for the department of public instruction.
"The sense is that most teachers work well beyond the miniumum, but there are some who do not," Mr. Hagarty said. The purpose of the regulation, he said, "is to make clear to everyone that teachers work at least as long as other state employees."
The Delaware State Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, objects to the policy.
"This is an example of the state usurping control from local districts," said Mary Anne Galloway, president of the dsea The board's action violates state laws governing collective bargaining by public employees, she asserted.
Under the law, she said, "working conditions, which include work hours, are a matter for local negotiations." The union may challenge the new policy in court or ask the legislature to "clarify" the law, she said.
The Louisiana Association of Educators has criticized the state board of elementary and secondary education for waiving limits on class size in nearly a third of the state's school systems.
In the past two months, the board has approved waivers for certain classes in approximately 22 public-school parishes.
The waivers were necessary because of the "great financial strain" that school districts have been under in the past two years, said James Meza, executive director of the board. Most of the requests, he said last week, have come from rural and poor districts.
But, according to a spokesman for the teachers' union, the waivers "make a mockery of the board's own rules governing class-size limitations." Board regulations limit classes to 29 students in grades K-3 and 33 students in grades 4-12.
Some of the waivers have enabled classes to exceed those limits by as many as 8 students.
Virginia Budd, president of the union, said the waivers were a "Band Aid" solution to the problem of inadequate funding for schools and would make it harder for teachers to serve the needs of individual children.
A group of parents in Wagoner County, Okla., has legal standing to sue to prevent a boy carrying the aids virus from attending a local school, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled.
The Nov. 24 ruling reverses a decision made in October by a Wagoner County judge and opens the way for a trial on the matter in the local district court, according to a spokesman for the group, the Concerned Parents Association.
The parents contend that the unidentified 8-year-old boy poses a health risk to their own children because he has emotional problems and has been known to bite others.
State education officials in Mississippi say they will no longer allow districts to employ school-bus drivers who are younger than 18.
After the end of the current school year, about 30 under-age bus drivers will be denied state certification, according to officials at the state board of education.
Some rural districts have traditionally coped with a scarcity of adult drivers by allowing some 17-year-old students to operate buses. But the U.S. Labor Department has refused to renew an exemption from the federal child-labor law that would have permitted the practice to continue.
Five other states currently allow districts to use under-age drivers, according to Leonard Cain, director of transportation for the Mississippi education department.
Recently, however, some of those districts have attempted to replace teen-age drivers with adults.