State News Roundup
New York State's black and Hispanic residents place more importance than do whites on the teaching of a common American heritage to public-school students, according to a poll by the New York State United Teachers.
According to the poll results, released late last month, about 89 percent of blacks, 87 percent of Hispanics, and 70 percent of whites surveyed view teaching a common heritage as "very important."
Moreover, the random survey of 1,000 state residents found that blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely as whites to say it is very important to teach the histories of individual racial and ethnic minorities.
Over all, about 48 percent of those surveyed said it is most important to teach a common heritage, 11 percent put more importance on teaching the histories of different groups, and 40 percent said one is not more important than the other.
More than 88 percent of those surveyed said that at least some material about both the shared and individual histories of Americans should be taught in social-studies classes.
Officials of the state teachers' union, who commissioned the poll because they believed the debate over the state's social- studies curriculum was getting too divisive, said the poll results show "widespread agreement" over what students should learn.
The Kansas City, Mo., school district has been ordered to seek a short-term loan to fund desegregation costs that the state otherwise would have to pay out of its own tight budget.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit last month ordered the district to pursue short-term financing to cover a shortfall in its budget for capital improvements for desegregation.
The court's decision saves the state, which already has cut $71 million from other areas of this year's budget to build new schools for the city, from having to make more than $50 million in additional cuts from programs in order to fund the city's desegregation efforts.
The state, nonetheless, is obligated to repay the loan taken out by Kansas City or to pay the desegregation costs directly if the district cannot obtain a loan, the court said.
The Arizona School Boards Association has questioned the state board of education's power to adopt guidelines that essentially bar school officials across the state from spanking students.
In late October, the board passed new guidelines that permit corporal punishment only after "all other" disciplinary measures have failed and only if students are age 16 or older. The law also states that parents must give written permission in order for spanking to be administered.
Barbara Robey, a spokesman for the school-boards group, said the association believes that "what the [state] board did was usurp the authority of the legislature."
She noted that lawmakers in the state House twice during the 1991 session successfully blocked Senate-approved bills banning corporal punishment.
Nancy Blair, a spokesman for the state education department, said that while state board members are not legally in a position to ban spanking, "they are doing what they can within their power to limit it."
The state attorney general's office has yet to rule on the legality of the board's actions.
But John Hestand, the school-boards association's lawyer, said the association may file a friend-of-the-court brief if school districts decide to challenge the new guidelines in court.