News In Brief
Oklahoma lawmakers have set a June 26 date for a statewide referendum on four constitutional amendments on school finance and related issues.
The proposed amendments are described as companion measures to the major school-reform and tax-increase bill enacted in April after months of intensive legislative and public debate. (See Education Week, April 25, 1990.)
The most significant of the four proposals would amend the state constitution to strengthen provisions in the new law calling for equalization of school funding among districts.
Currently, revenues from taxes on a variety of types of property are reserved for the school district in which the property is located. The amendment would alter that by requiring that tax revenues above a certain level be put into a state common-school fund. Money from the fund would then be distributed to districts according to the state school-aid formula.
Another amendment would create a fund for revenues from the leasing of school lands, which would also be allotted to districts according to the state formula.
The other proposals would change the way in which members of the state board of education are selected, and give the legislature the power to set mandatory school-attendance ages.
Gov. Richard F. Celeste of Ohio has vetoed a school-discipline bill that would have increased the criminal penalty for disorderly conduct and allowed suspensions and expulsions of students to be carried over from one year to the next.
Governor Celeste argued that the stronger disorderly-conduct penalties would have added to the dropout rate, and that carry-over suspensions would have meant that a student could fail courses in two semesters instead of one.
The Governor also expressed concern that the state's courts and jails would be unduly burdened by the measure, which would have increased the penalty for disorderly conduct from a $100 fine to a possible $250 fine and 30-day jail term.
The Colorado legislature has approved an alternative-teacher-certification bill.
Under the bill, alternative-certification teachers would be able to work in the classroom for one year under the supervision of a master or mentor teacher, and then would be subject to regular certification.
Officials of the Colorado Education Association said they are not completely opposed to alternative certification, but feel that the current bill represents a "patchwork approach" to the issue.
"This bill does not appear to value that there is some knowledge needed by teachers of how to teach or about how students learn," said Deborah Fallin, a spokesman for the union.
Gov. Roy Romer has not indicated whether he will sign the measure.
The Kansas legislature has approved a proposed constitutional amendment to limit the powers of the state board of education.
The proposal, which received a4two-thirds majority vote in both chambers, will be placed before the voters on the November ballot.
The amendment would eliminate language in the state constitution stating that the board has "general supervision" over precollegiate education. In 1973, the state supreme court ruled that that language meant the board does not need legislative approval for its actions, although the legislature controls budget decisions.
Backers of the proposed amendment argue that because legislators control more than half of the state's education budget, they should also have the final say on educational policies.
Similar measures have been defeated twice by voters.
A new plan aimed at resolving Michigan's lengthy deadlock 8over school-finance issues has been introduced.
David Olmstead, finance chairman for the Detroit school board, and C. Philip Kearney, director of the University of Michigan's Bureau of Accreditation and School-Improvement Studies, last month unveiled a proposed constitutional amendment to require state funding of at least 50 percent of school costs. In addition, proceeds from the state lottery would be reserved for the schools.
Sponsors estimated that their proposal would cost the state an additional $1 billion a year. The new funds could be obtained not by raising taxes, they said, but by reserving much of the growth in state revenues over five years for the schools.
The proposal also contains a "bill of rights" spelling out the rights and responsibilities of students, educators, and state and local officials.