States News Roundup
Connecticut's supreme court has upheld a 1986 law requiring teachers to renew their certification every five years, rather than retain it for life.
Passed as part of a package that also included increases in teacher salaries, the statute requires teachers to earn continuing-education credits in order to maintain their certification.
The state's two largest teachers' unions filed suit to block the new mandate. The unions argued that the law would violate teachers' constitutional rights to due process of law, since those who already held lifetime certificates would be required to surrender them in exchange for the new certificates.
In a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Ellen A. Peters, however, the court denied that the law violated those rights.
"It was not arbitrary or irrational," the court ruled, "for the legislature to decide that its goal of enhancing the quality of the state's educational system as a whole required even teachers who had attained permanent status to continue to sharpen their educational skills.''
Mark Waxenberg, president of the Connecticut Education Association, said his organization had no plans to pursue further action against the law. "The court has spoken," he said. "It's time to move on to other issues."
Tougher admission standards for its public universities have been approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
To be admitted to a state university, students will have to have four years of high-school English; three years each of social studies, mathematics, and laboratory sciences; and two years of foreign languages, music, or art.
However, the legislature is considering a proposal to delay the requirements until 1998, or until the board certifies that every high school in the state offers all the required courses. Backers of a delay argue that many high schools do not offer three years of laboratory science.
Nearly 83,000 students in the 7th through 12th grades dropped out of Texas schools last year, according to the state education department's first comprehensive survey of the dropout problem.
The preliminary report released this month showed that the 82,883 dropouts included 34,809 whites, 33,005 Hispanics, 13,614 blacks, 1,281 Asians, and 174 American Indians.
Houston, the largest district in the state, reported 12,702 dropouts. But Dallas, the second-largest, reported only 2,869--a disparity that prompted state officials to ask for a review of the Dallas figure. Dallas counted only verified dropouts, not students who may have transfered to other districts, explained Rodney Davis, a spokesman for the district.
A state law requires districts to reduce their dropout rates to no more than 5 percent over a 10-year period.
Voters in Montpelier, Burlington, and more than a dozen other Vermont communities have rejected double-digit increases in school budgets.
All told, however, some 83 percent of the 232 districts that voted on Town Meeting Day--the state's annual exercise in direct democracy--approved new school budgets.
School-budget defeats in some communities may have been due to public resentment over teacher strikes and pay raises of from 10 to 12 percent, observed W. Ross Brewer, director of planning and policy development for the state education department.
Coloradans favor decentralization of the school bureaucracy and believe that schools should emphasize basic skills, according to a poll conducted by the local media and a public-interest group.
The emphasis that the poll's 9,700 respondents placed on reading, writing, and calculating indicates that they "want the basics taught and taught well," according to an editorial in the Rocky Mountain News.
The paper sponsored SchoolVote, a special poll conducted last month, in conjunction with KUSA-tv of Denver and the Public Education Coalition.