And a Look at Some of the People Who Made the News
The stormy Cabinet career of Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos ended late last year, following two years of rumors that he would soon be fired for what critics termed a lackluster performance in the nation's top education job.
Mr. Cavazos used his position to trumpet the Administration's support of parental choice and school-based management, and traveled frequently in search of platforms to advance those issues.
Over the past year of his administration, the one-time president of Texas Tech University came under harsh criticism several times from fellow Hispanics who objected to his remarks that Hispanic parents no longer value education as they once did. An appearance before the Texas legislature also resulted in an angry walkout by some members, who objected to his avid promoting of school choice and his downplaying of the role of funding in school reform.
At year's end, former Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, tapped by President Bush as Mr. Cavazos's successor, was awaiting confirmation by the Senate.
Urban superintendents made the news in 1990, chiefly by quitting or getting fired in large numbers. Over the course of the year, school boards in Austin and Houston, Tex.; Boston; Columbus and Toledo, Ohio; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Detroit; Indianapolis; Hartford; Kansas City, Mo.; Memphis; Milwaukee; Savannah, Ga.; St. Louis; Tucson; Virginia Beach, Va.; and the District of Columbia were in various stages of searches for new chief executive officers for their school systems.
The Boston search proved so lengthy and divisive that the city council began an effort to abolish the school board altogether, while some scholars and educators began to call for a rethinking of the governance of city schools.
U.S. Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, ended his 28-year tenure in the Congress when he resigned last year.
In recent years, Mr. Hawkins emerged as the Congress's most vocal opponent of parental-choice programs, seeing in them a threat to equal educational opportunity. He also authored legislation last year that would force virtually every state to alter the way its public schools are financed by equalizing per-pupil funding among school districts in order to receive federal education funds.
Chicago parents began their daring school-reform experiment as members of local school councils by voting not to rehire 49 of 276 principals and by adopting improvement plans.
Two prominent educators, John R. Silber, president of Boston University, and Paul R. Hubbert, president of the Alabama Education Association, came close to winning races for governor of their respective states.
Three educational researchers, John E. Chubb, Terry E. Moe, and John I. Goodlad, made headlines with major books on education last year.
In their book Politics, Markets, and America's Schools, Mr. Chubb and Mr. Moe called for a much more aggressive application of the free-market philosophy to the governance of public education. Their proposal for radically redesigning the roles of state and local school boards, and their advocacy of public-private choice plans nationwide, made the book the topic of many ad corridor discussion.
Calling for a similarly radical overhauling of the nation's teacher-education programs, Mr. Goodlad's book, Teachers for Our Nation's Schools, recommended the creation of separate "centers of pedagogy" with the same amount of autonomy and authority as medical and law school now enjoy.
State Representative Polly Williams of Wisconsin, author of the nation's first private-school choice bill, became the darling of conservative Republicans nationwide, was received at the White House, and found herself lionized in the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal--unlikely occurrences for the former welfare mother and state chairman of the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson's Presidential campaign.
The nation's governors were active once again in school-reform issues, forging an agreement with President Bush on six national education goals. But perhaps no governor plunged into school-finance issues with the gusto of Gov. James J. Florio of New Jersey, who used his clout to push a finance-reform law through the legislature within weeks of a court decision striking down the existing system.
In doing so, however, he discovered that he had managed to infuriate virtually everyone in the Garden State, including taxpayers, teachers (who objected to the loss of state funding for their pensions), and suburban educators, who hated the idea of losing all or much of their state aid within a few years.
After the state's most popular Democratic politician, Senator Bill Bradley, barely escaped a completely unexpected re-election defeat because of voter anger at Mr. Florio, the Governor agreed that perhaps it was time to look at some changes.
The state chief who will be the most carefully scrutinized in the coming year undoubtedly will be Thomas C. Boysen, chosen to oversee Kentucky's massive public-school restructuring. Mr. Boysen, superintendent of the San Diego County schools, became Kentucky's first appointed commissioner of education under the state's landmark school bill passed last year.
In addition to presiding over bold classroom-reform efforts, he will be faced with the prospect of rebuilding the state education department by June 30, when law mandates that the existing department cease operations.
Molefi Kete Asante, director of Temple University's African-American studiesel10ldepartment, continued to be a leading proponent of "Afro-centric" school programs. Interest in Afro-centric and multicultural curricula surged in 1990 as racial tensions appeared to increase in schools nationwide, with large numbers of race-related violent incidents and charges of racial discrimination in the dismissal of several leading black school officials.
Other individuals who left their mark on education in 1990 include
Ryan White and Vincent Chalk, the young man and the California teacher
who helped sensitize the nation to the unique difficulties--and the
civil rights--of people with aids, who died last year ... Bart Simpson,
the celluloid cutup with the funny haircut, who became anathema to
principals nationwide ... Thomas K. Gilhool, the former state chief of
Pennsylvania who fought to gain a job teaching in an inner-city
Philadelphia school, only to quit the job after his first year, citing
his low pay and the discouraging socioeconomic problems of his students
... Joseph A. Fernandez, chancellor of the New York City schools, who
was tapped for the job of heading the nation's largest district and who
moved quickly to gain the authority to reassign principals who do not
perform up to expectations, revamp the city's teacher-hiring system,
and offer a controversial plan to distribute condoms in city