State News Roundup
The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that a state law barring the hiring of professional strikebreakers does not apply to schools.
Following a teachers' strike in the McMinnville district in 1990, a resident sued the school board, charging that replacement teachers were illegally hired and paid with public funds.
In a 5-to-3 ruling, the appeals court last month upheld a lower-court ruling that the law refers to private employers only, not government agencies. The law defines a professional strikebreaker as someone who has replaced strikers at least twice within the previous five years.
"When the legislature has intended to include public bodies within the definition of 'employer' it has expressly provided for that,'' Judge Edward Warren wrote for the majority.
But dissenting judges argued that the law clearly applies to school districts and that the court should not "insert into the statute what the legislature has left out.''
Teachers' union officials said the ruling severely weakens their bargaining power.
"If you can't use this strike lever, you are forced to settle for less than you want,'' said Jane Howard a spokeswoman for the Oregon Federation of Teachers.
The Minnesota state affiliates of the two national teachers' unions have signed a truce ending their battles over potential new members.
Leaders of the Minnesota Education Association and the Minnesota Federation of Teachers agreed to ban school-district elections to decide which union can bargain on behalf of teachers in contract negotiations.
Together, the two unions have some 70,000 members.
Union officials told a news conference last week that competition between the organizations had become divisive, and that the new agreement may signal an eventual merger.
Also last week, teachers in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district in the state voted to merge their locals of the two state affiliates.
A West Virginia circuit-court judge has dismissed a lawsuit charging that the state has manipulated school-consolidation policy.
Judge Herman Canady termed the lawsuit, filed last spring by a coalition of 28 rural groups opposing school closings and consolidations, "without merit.''
The class action alleged that the policy of "forced massive consolidation'' espoused by the state school board and school building authority deprives students in rural areas of equal access to education. It also asserted that these agencies unfairly withhold state funds from rural schools that refuse to consolidate.
The coalition has not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling.
Massachusetts's only public psychiatric facility for severely emotionally disturbed children was shut down last week over the objections of parents and state lawmakers.
Joan Mikula, assistant commissioner of child and adolescent services for the state department of mental health, said state officials closed the William C. Gaebler Children's Center in Waltham as part of an effort to move to a privatized system of care for children with emotional disturbances.
The new system, consisting of less-intensive residential treatment and a network of community-based programs, is intended to allow children to stay closer to home and spend less time in institutional settings.
Some parents of Gaebler residents opposed the move because they saw the institution as a last resort for their children, many of whom had already been rejected by private hospitals.
The legislature in June passed a bill that would have kept the facility open another year but that measure was vetoed by Gov. William F. Weld. The state House overrode that veto and the Senate was scheduled to take it up last week.
But, with all of the last remaining 11 residents moved out of the facility, the center was effectively closed regardless of the outcome of that vote, Ms. Mikula said.
The Iowa Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to a state law establishing "drug free'' zones around schools and increasing penalties for people convicted of dealing drugs in these areas.
In deciding the case, the court rejected an appeal by Andrew L. Peterson, who was convicted of selling cocaine to an undercover police officer in the parking lot of a restaurant in Waterloo. Mr. Peterson was sentenced to 10 years in prison plus an additional five years because the crime was committed within 1,000 feet of school grounds.
In his appeal, Mr. Peterson contended that the statute was vaguely worded and that the state had to prove students congregated on the property in question.
The court rejected those arguments.