News In Brief
Georgia Board Approves Standardized Curriculum
Beginning this fall, public schools in Georgia will teach courses based on a uniform statewide curriculum.
The state board of education voted unanimously July 14 to phase in its new Quality Core Curriculum over the next five years. The curriculum sets out which courses will be taught at which grade levels and establishes objectives for all courses from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
The move was required by the Quality Basic Education Act, Georgia's three-year-old reform law.
Education officials say the new curriculum will ensure that students across the state receive the same instruction.
For example, school districts have had the option of teaching American history in the 5th, 6th, or 7th grades. Under the new curriculum, it will be taught in the 5th grade statewide.
"That doesn't necessarily mean that in north Georgia and south Georgia, they're going to be in the same book on the same page on the same day,'' said Curtis Dixon, director of instruction for the state education department. But they will study the same objectives over the course of the school year, he said.
The curriculum will be phased in as new textbooks for each subject are adopted by the state board.
Dukakis Signs Measure On Student Expression
Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts has signed legislation that guarantees all public-school students the right to freedom of expression.
The measure, which stipulates that school officials may only restrict student speech that is disruptive or obscene, is only the second of its kind in the country, according to the Student Press Law Center, a Washington-based advocacy group. California has had a similar statute on the books since 1976.
State lawmakers said the bill was prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last January in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, in which it held that school officials have broad authority to censor student speech that arises as part of the school's curriculum.
Five other states--Illinois, Iowa, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Wyoming--considered similar legislation this year in the wake of that ruling, although none of those proposals was enacted.
Early Pennsylvania Session Set on Budget Problems
Gov. Robert P. Casey has called Pennsylvania lawmakers back early from their summer vacations to resolve unfinished business.
Governor Casey was forced to approve a state budget before the fiscal year began on June 30 in order to avert a fiscal crisis.
But he has called the legislature into session Aug. 8--about a month earlier than usual--to address several problems that he has with the spending blueprint.
The $10.7-billion state budget now includes $4.3 billion for elementary and secondary education, but that figure will probably be revised during the early session, a spokesman for the Governor said.
Mr. Casey is seeking quick action on his plans to raise the minimum salary for teachers to $18,500; to provide $13.5 million in grants to schools that demonstrate improvements in student achievement; to earmark $3 million for a new forgivable-loan program for prospective teachers; and to establish five lead-teacher centers statewide.
Also pending is a House bill that would add $16.9 million in basic state aid to districts and restore $14 million to the state's Excellence in Education program that the Governor vetoed.
The New Jersey General Assembly has passed an $11.8-billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year that increases school aid by $300 million, bringing the total to $3.5 billion.
The new budget, which was signed into law by Gov. Thomas H. Kean in late June, did not include a $30-million proposal by the Governor to increase the base pay rate for teachers to $22,000, up from the current level of $18,500. The House and Senate finance committees both eliminated the item from their proposed budgets.
According to a spokesman for the Governor, some state officials blamed the deletion of the base-salary increase on overly zealous lobbying by the state's teachers' unions, which pressed for a salary increase for all teachers.
A bill that would have allowed Arizona school districts to challenge allegedly false child-guardianship arrangements has been vetoed by Gov. Rose Mofford.
The bill was proposed after local school officials complained that some students--especially Mexican nationals--arrange for false guardians to circumvent a requirement requiring nonresident students to pay tuition. The bill would have required that districts be notified prior to legal proceedings to award guardianship and be allowed to testify that the child was not a resident of the district.
Hispanic Americans opposed the bill because they feared that children with foreign-sounding surnames would be discriminated against.
Wyoming has become the last state in the country to raise its minimum drinking age to 21.
The new age limit, which became effective July 1, was passed by the state legislature in March.
The law was adopted after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal government's policy of denying highway funds to states with an under-21 drinking age.
Public-school students in Michigan will be prohibited from bringing telephone "beepers'' to school under a measure signed last month by Gov. James J. Blanchard.
Officials in Detroit and elsewhere in the state had complained to lawmakers that some students have been using using beepers to conduct drug transactions while at school.
Mr. Blanchard last month also signed a measure barring school districts from hiring chauffeurs and buying or leasing cars for their board members. The bill was introduced in response to complaints about the provision of such perquisites to members of the Detroit school board.
In a separate development, members of a House-Senate conference committee were scheduled to meet July 28 in another attempt to reach a consensus on a plan to revise the state's tax and school-finance systems.
Supporters of an initiative to repeal Idaho's investment-tax credit failed to collect enough signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.
Educators, union members, and a local citizen's watchdog group obtained 38,000 signatures by the July 8 deadline, 2,000 less than needed to put the measure before voters.
Gov. Cecil D. Andrus and some members of the business community had supported a move to repeal the investment-tax credit during this year's legislative session, saying it would have raised an additional $15 million for education.
Utah lawmakers have approved Gov. Norman Bangerter's plan to rebate $80 million in surplus revenues to taxpayers and to use another $10 million to bolster state aid to schools.
But education groups say that the July 6 move may not be enough to block passage of tax-limitation initiatives that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.
The initiatives, placed on the ballot by the Utah Tax Limitation Coalition, would roll back the record-high tax increase approved by the legislature last year, place limits on local property taxes, and provide tax credits to the parents of private-school students.
If approved, the initiatives could reduce state revenues by $350 million, said Colleen S. Colton, the Governor's education adviser.
"That would be really devastating to education,'' Ms. Colton said.
Taxpayers for Utah, a new group led by former Gov. Scott M. Matheson, has been formed to oppose the initiatives.
Montana's governor has created a five-member council to investigate new school-funding methods in the wake of a state- court ruling that declared the current system unconstitutional.
The Public School Financing Advisory Council will develop proposals for Gov. Ted Schwinden to consider in preparing his executive budget for the fiscal 1990-91 biennium.
The deadline for the group's report is Oct. 1, two months before the Governor's new budget must be submitted to the legislature.
The Montana Board of Regents has approved a controversial plan requiring all college-bound high-school students to complete a college-preparatory curriculum.
The curriculum includes four years of English, three years each of mathematics and social studies, two years of laboratory science, and two years of either a foreign language, vocational education, computer science, or visual or performing arts.
The requirement will apply to all incoming freshmen beginning in the fall of 1990.
Gov. John R. McKernan of Maine says he will ask lawmakers next year to lengthen the school year from 175 to 180 days.
Maine ranks second only to Missouri in having the fewest number of days in the school year, said Willis Lyford, a spokesman for the Governor. If approved by the legislature, the new policy would take effect in the fall of 1989.
Mr. Lyford said the Governor expects that the Maine Teachers Association will oppose the plan, which would cost the state an additional $20 million to $25 million annually.
Child-advocacy groups in Washington State have launched a campaign for a one-cent increase in the state sales tax to raise new funds for education and child-care services.
According to Jon P. LeVeque, executive director of the Alliance for Children, Youth, and Families, the tax hike would generate an estimated $720 million annually. If lawmakers reject the plan, he said the group would collect signatures to place the issue before voters on the November 1989 ballot.
Gov. Booth Gardner has said that he will comment on the group's plan after he receives recommendations in November from a committee he appointed to develop tax-reform proposals. A spokesman for Mr. Gardner noted, however, that the state's sales tax is already among the highest in the nation.
Gov. James G. Martin of North Carolina has proposed the creation of a statewide system of "magnet'' schools specializing in vocational education.
Under Mr. Martin's plan, announced last month, the state would establish 16 to 20 regional schools for high-school students who plan to enter the work force upon graduation. The centers would focus on vocational training, but would also provide instruction in such basic subjects as English, mathematics, and social studies.
Lieut. Gov. Bob Jordan, who is challenging Mr. Martin in this November's gubernatorial election, has criticized the idea as a campaign gimmick. He said he favors the expansion of an experimental "Tech Prep'' program at one of the state's high schools that offers both vocational and college-preparatory courses.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives has approved a measure to outlaw the use of aversive therapy, a controversial treatment that uses punishment to modify the behavior of severely handicapped students.
The practice gained widespread attention in 1985 after a 22-year-old Massachusetts man died following such treatment in a group home for the severely disabled in Rhode Island.
The bill, which was overwhelmingly approved by the House on June 14,
is expected to be taken up by the Senate this fall.