News in Brief
Efforts by some Arkansas legislators to lower the nurse-to-student ratio in the state's public schools have run afoul of controversies over abortion and alleged promiscuity among teenagers.
Representative Pat Flanagin, the sponsor of legislation requiring school districts to hire one nurse per 1,00 students, said his bill was gutted this month in the House Education Committee by a coalition of fundamentalist Christians and anti-abortion groups.
Critics of the bill linked it to school-based health clinics, which they said promote sex among students and provide abortion counseling.
Instead, the committee changed the bill to make the proposed nurse-to-student ratio a goal rather than a mandate.
Despite Mr. Flanagin's claim that the issue of increasing the number of nurses in schools had nothing to do with school-based health clinics, debate over the bill focused heavily on just the issue he sought to avoid.
"They're against anything that gets the health department in the schools," Mr. Flanagin said of his adversaries. "They're really against the health department, period."
The Christian Coalition, a group of conservative legislators, has also stalled the state health department's proposed $200-million budget because it includes the establishment 1new school-based health clinics.
Gov. Norman H. Bangerter of Utah has signed into law a bill to reduce class sizes in 1st grade by an average of three students beginning next year.
The legislature approved $4.8 million to reduce class sizes in 1st grade, and lawmakers indicated they would work on a similar reduction for 2nd grade next year.
Elementary class sizes in Utah average more than 27 students, while the average for all public-school classes in the state is roughly 24 students.
The national average for class size is 17.2 students, according to the state office of education.
Mr. Bangerter signed the bill on March 5.
An Idaho Senate committee has effectively killed a proposal that would have allowed school districts to establish their own attendance policies.
The education committee voted 9 to 3 this month to block a vote by the full Senate on a measure that would have repealed a state board of education rule that requires students to attend at least 9 percent of their classes in a given subject in order to receive credit for the course.
Lawmakers in the House earlier had voted 56 to 26 to repeal the seven-year-old rule, which was established by a commission on educational excellence.
Opponents of the rule argued that some students take advantage of the rule to skip 1 percent of their classes. Others argued that some students have dropped out of school after they missed more than the maximum allowable number of days.
Proponents of the existing rule countered that the measure helps to ensure a minimum educational standard statewide.
A Minnesota Senate panel has rejected a House-passed bill that would set a school-week work curfew for high-school students.
The employment committee voted 5-to-4 this month against the bill, which would bar employers from as signing students under age 18 to work between 11 P.M. and 5 A.M. before school days.
State law already prohibits employers from having students under age 16 work past 9 P.M. or before 7 A.M., or from employing students under age 14.
The legislation, sponsored by Senator Leonard Price, a Washington County teacher, would exempt students working on farms, for a family business, or as newspaper carriers, babysitters, or actors and models.
Despite the setback for the proposal, Senator Price said he hoped to attach it to other legislation, such as the state school-aid bill.
Mr. Price added said that his experience as a social-studies teacher convinced him that such a law is war ranted. His students sometimes skip class, fall asleep at school, and fail to complete their homework because they have been working late, he said.