State News Roundup
The Texas state school board this month voted to adopt conditionally four U.S.-government textbooks for high schools that critics claim contain more than 250 errors.
The vote comes nearly a year after the state gained national attention when thousands of factual errors were found in history textbooks that were up for adoption. Those books eventually were accepted after publishers agreed to make corrections and to pay fines for each error found in the final copies of the books.
The new errors in U.S.-government texts were brought to the attention of the board in recent weeks by Mel and Norma Gabler, the founders of a conservative textbook-watchdog group in Longview. Not all of the alleged mistakes, which are characterized as both factual and technical, have been confirmed.
However, the board agreed to adopt the books provided that the final version of each does not contain more than 50 verified errors. The publishers will also be required to pay $100 for each error. The board will review the books again at its February meeting.
Year-round schools in Texas have yet to show measurable gains in student achievement, according to a statewide study requested by a legislative policy group.
The study found growing public support for moving schools to a year-round calendar. But it concluded that evidence for one of the chief claims for the schedule--better academic performance--has not been forthcoming. Researchers urged further study of learning in schools on the year-round calendar, but found that the few schools that have pioneered the concept have fared about the same as those using the traditional schedule.
Conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University, the report notes that 41 districts are using the modified school calendar, up from 26 in 1991. In addition, it says, 60 percent of Texas residents favor the concept as a way to improve efficiency and performance.
The Michigan state board of education has agreed to repay the federal government about $202,000 in grant money that was used to send state officials and local educators on overseas trips.
Board officials denied having misused the money, however, as they voted 6 to 0 this month to repay the funds to the U.S. Education Department.
Federal auditors contend that foreign-language teachers were the intended recipients of the grant money. Instead, it was used to send board members, state lawmakers, staff members of the state education department, and local educators to Japan, West Germany, and Italy in 1987 and 1988.
Board members said they had done nothing improper, and argued that the trips had resulted in improvements in foreign-language instruction throughout the state.
The board's move to return the money spent on travel is part of a broader agreement to repay more than $800,000 in federal funds over three years, beginning in 1994.
Federal officials also contend that the state was overpaid $11.6 million in remedial-education funds. They agreed, however, to accept a repayment of just $600,000.
A former assistant state superintendent in Arizona has been sentenced to eight years in prison for his part in what prosecutors have termed a million-dollar fraud and kickback scheme.
James D. Hartgraves, 61, who held the department's second-highest-ranking post from 1974 to 1988, was sentenced this month after pleading guilty last summer to charges of fraud, money laundering, and bribery.
Mr. Hartgraves, who has been the focus of a sweeping investigation of corruption in the state education department, could have been sentenced to as much as 14 years in prison under the terms of a plea agreement worked out last August.
The scheme that state prosecutors said Mr. Hartgraves masterminded siphoned off more than $950,000 in federal grant money between 1985 and 1988 through phony book sales and other methods.
Speaking at the sentencing, State Superintendent of Public Instruction C. Diane Bishop said Mr. Hartgraves, whose personal assets and state pension were seized by the state, deserved a harsh sentence.
"Who can say what educational opportunities were lost because those monies did not get to the classroom?'' she asked.