State News Roundup
An Illinois law that mandates that Good Friday be an official school holiday unconstitutionally favors the Christian faith, a federal judge has ruled.
Striking down the 1941 law, U.S. District Judge Ann Claire Williams ruled May 27 that mandating a holiday on Good Friday, when Christians commemorate Jesus' crucifixion, "conveys the impermissible message that Christianity is a favored religion within the state of Illinois.'' In Metzl v. Leininger, she wrote: "Non-Christians and Eastern Orthodox students are reminded that their holy days somehow failed to make the grade.''
The law was challenged by Andrea Metzl, a Chicago special-education teacher who said she does not observe the holiday and felt awkward explaining it to her students.
Higher Standards: The Texas Education Agency has raised slightly its accreditation standards for local schools. The new measure requires that 25 percent of a school district's students pass all parts of the state's academic-skills test for the district to be designated acceptable.
The standard is an increase from last year's 20 percent mark, which about 1 percent of the state's districts failed to reach.
Under the state's system, schools where 90 percent of the students pass the test are declared exemplary. The legislature appropriated $5 million as rewards for schools, which can be awarded to high-performing districts or to districts within the acceptable range that have showed dramatic improvement.
The second year of state performance ratings, based primarily on scores on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, are due in August.
Texas To Sue: Texas recently joined three other states in announcing that it will sue the federal government for reimbursement of spending on services to illegal immigrants.
Arizona, California, and Florida officials have filed similar lawsuits seeking to recover state funds spent on education, housing, health care, and imprisonment of illegal immigrants who have flocked to the border states.
Texas officials, in announcing the action, said their aim is obtain federal money that will help shore up state funds already stretched thin. Unlike in other states, notably California, Texas officials said illegal immigrants are not a focus of state criticism. An estimated 550,000 illegal immigrants make substantial contributions to the state's economy, Texas officials said.