States News Roundup
The Minnesota Education Association and the state board of education have forged a settlement that will eliminate a regulation allowing school districts to circumvent state-mandated class-size restrictions.
At issue was a rule, approved by the board in 1986, that has enabled local school boards to exceed class-size guidelines simply by voting to do so and filing papers with the state justifying the action.
The mea challenged the regulation in state court, arguing that the board did not follow proper procedures in adopting the provision.
State law stipulates that public hearings must be held before any change in rules can occur. The department of education had held hearings before the policy change in question. But discussion of the proposed regulation was limited to the size of music classes, according to a spokesman for the mea, an affiliate of the National Education Association.
Under the terms of the settlement, local school boards may no longer vote to exceed the stipulated class-size limits.
"In this situation, we obviously did not follow proper procedures in developing the rule," said Marjorie Johnson, president of the board of education. "Assuming the court will approve our agreement, our thinking6is that we must revisit the overall issue of class size and its impact on learning."
A Connecticut court has blocked the Derby Board of Education's efforts to eliminate several state-mandated school programs.
Hartford Superior Court Judge Norris O'Neill last month issued a temporary restraining order requiring the board to rehire seven employees--teachers of music, art, business, basic skills, industrial arts, and home economics, as well as a librarian--who were laid off in June after the city's tax board cut $450,000 from the school board's budget request.
The injunction expires on Sept. 22, when Judge O'Neill will hold a hearing to decide whether it should be extended.
The state's commissioner of education, Gerald N. Tirozzi, had sought the injunction after finding that the layoffs had resulted in the elimination of programs mandated by state law.
While the injunction is pending, the education department has held in abeyance a separate administrative action that could result in state intervention to enforce the mandates.
High-school biology teachers can use the term "evolution" in class, the Alabama State Board of Education has decided.
Before the unanimous vote by the board in August, the course of study used by teachers had referred only to "species modification."
The board instructed teachers to include "scientific theories of the origin of life and evolution" in all high-school biology courses. Instructors will continue to be prohibited from teaching the biblical story of creation, according to State Superintendent of Education Wayne Teague.
Lynn O. Simons, superintendent of public instruction in Wyoming, has lost her bid to become the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate.
Ms. Simons finished last in a three-candidate primary held Aug. 16. The winner, state Senator John Vinich, will face the Republican incumbent, Malcolm Wallop, in November.
State Democratic leaders say that Ms. Simons' campaign was hampered by bad publicity after she requested a new $18,000 car to replace her state-provided car, which had traveled more than 100,000 miles. Critics accused her of attempting to spend education money on a "luxury" automobile.
Arkansas has the right to require children who are being taught at home to take annual achievement tests administered by the state, a federal appeals court has ruled.
A group of home-schooling parents had contested a state law requiring such testing, on the grounds that the statute interfered with religious tenets that prevent them from relinquishing any responsibility for their children's education.
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in late July that the state has a compelling interest in ensuring that its citizens receive an adequate education and that its testing program is the "least restrictive" way to monitor student progress.
Beginning with the class of 1991, high-school students in Louisiana will have to pass a battery of standardized tests in order to graduate, the state's board of elementary and secondary education has decided.
But the new graduation requirement, adopted by the board last month, will not apply to students in the class of 1990, as had originally been proposed.
Wilmer S. Cody, the state's education superintendent, asked the board to delay the requirement for one year. He cited a legal opinion by the state attorney general, who concluded that members of the class of 1990 had not been given enough notice that passing the tests would be a requirement for graduation.
The spouses of school-board members may not work as teachers in the same district, according to a ruling by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
In its August decision, the court invoked a provision of the state constitution that bars public officials from having any interest in a contract approved by the board on which they serve.
By extension, the court said, a conflict of interest exists when school-board members vote on the hiring and salary levels of teachers to whom they are married.
The court also held that spouses may not be employed by the district for at least a year after the end of a board member's service.
Mississippi school districts must meet more than 127 standards for accreditation this fall, under the state board of education's new "performance-based" evaluation system.
The standards, which were mandated by the state's Education Reform Act of 1982, include "process standards," which evaluate such variables as the amount of equipment in classrooms, and "outcome standards," which set minimum levels of student performance.
For example, 80 percent of a district's high-school juniors must pass the state's Functional Literacy Examination. Moreover, students must average in at least the 42nd percentile nationally on the Stanford Achievement Test, which is given in kindergarten and in the 1st, 4th, and 6th grades.