State News Roundup
Conn. Desegregation Cost Estimated at $515 Million: Connecticut's new statewide school-desegregation program could cost more than $515 million a year once it is fully implemented, finance officials have estimated.
In a report released last month on future state spending, the Office of Policy and Management calculated building and operating costs for integrated public schools based on the assumption that one in four students could attend magnet schools after 1995.
Under a law passed by the legislature in June, 11 clusters of cities, towns, and rural areas are responsible for devising integration plans by next fall that incorporate magnet schools, interdistrict programs, school choice, or other options. (See Education Week, June 9, 1993.)
Backers of the measure quickly disputed the huge cost estimate. The O.P.M.'s estimates "were completely concocted to impress that few dollars are available for purposes of bargaining'' with state employees, said State Sen. Kevin B. Sullivan, one of the architects of the plan.
Although there is no way to estimate how many students will have to enroll in schools outside their communities, Mr. Sullivan said, the plan should not cost the state education department more than $2 million to $5 million a year.
Massachusetts Steps In: For the first time in its history, the Massachusetts education department last week assumed financial control of two regional school districts.
Commissioner of Education Robert V. Antonucci took the action after the requisite two-thirds of the towns that form the regional districts failed to pass budgets for the current school year by Dec. 1, as required by law.
To keep the districts operating for the next month, the commissioner ordered the towns to appropriate one-twelfth of their previous fiscal year's school budgets.
If the towns do not pass adequate budgets by the end of December, Mr. Antonucci will refer the matter to the state attorney general.
What the attorney general might do is uncertain because of the unprecedented nature of the action.
Teacher Tenure: A Kentucky task force has avoided tackling the issue of tenure in its final report on teacher preparation.
The task force agreed to standards that teachers should meet but did not approve a plan that would have required a peer review and approval from the district superintendent for teachers to receive tenure. Teachers would have needed to get positive peer reviews every five years to keep tenured status.
The chairman of the Senate education committee criticized the task force for sidestepping the tenure issue and said the state must change its certification system and staff-development programs if it expects better teachers.
Student-Aid Audit: The U.S. Education Department is seeking more than $16 million from the California Student Aid Commission that it says the loan agency improperly collected from the government by misstating its outstanding student loans by $1.5 billion.
An audit by the San Francisco office of the Education Department ordered an additional $49 million in reimbursement, citing the commission for lax efforts to seek repayment from people who had defaulted on their student loans.
Officials of the loan agency criticized the report, arguing that its
response to the audit will show that its files have been in