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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Wilson Signs School Safety Bills

Gov. Pete Wilson of California has signed a package of bills designed to protect children in that state from potentially dangerous school employees.

The bills stem from the murder last spring of Michelle Montoya. The 18-year old senior was killed just days before graduation in the woodshop at Rio Linda High School, near Sacramento, allegedly by a substitute janitor whose violent criminal history was not known to school officials. ("Slaying Casts Spotlight on Job Screening," May 28, 1997.)

Beginning immediately, all applicants for full- or part-time noncertified positions in California schools must have criminal-background checks. And schools may not hire or keep persons convicted of violent felonies in noncertified posts unless they have certificates of rehabilitation or have received pardons.

Also, starting Jan. 1, parents must be notified if their children will be supervised by anyone convicted of a sex or controlled-substance offense. Counties can also now levy $1 surcharges on vehicle-registration fees to help police departments buy equipment capable of performing high-speed fingerprint checks.

Mich. Revamps Accreditation Process

Michigan will no longer base the accreditation of its K-12 public schools primarily on scores from state standardized tests, according to new standards approved by the state board of education.

The panel elected last month to give more weight to other factors, such as the progress that low-performing schools make toward improvement.

State board members also pared a list of 109 standards by which schools are assessed to just 10 broadly worded goals dealing with matters such as school improvement, attendance, and test scores.

The department will use the new standards to give schools a full accreditation, an interim accreditation, or no accreditation.

Unaccredited schools qualify for state-financed technical assistance, yet they can also face penalties such as reduced state aid and closure. Currently, 22 schools in Michigan are unaccredited, based on the former standards.

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