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Published in Print: October 21, 1998, as News in Brief: A National Roundup

News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Court Denies District Plan Offering School Vouchers



Parents who live in Pennsylvania's Southeast Delco district but send their children to private schools or to other districts will not receive the tuition reimbursements they expected.

A county judge there ruled last week that the reimbursement plan approved by the nine-member school board last year is illegal under the state constitution.

The first of its kind in the state, the plan was intended to inject parental choice into the system, according to board member Byron Mundy. It also aimed to reduce overcrowding in the 4,000-student district, where public school enrollment has been increasing. A total of about $1.2 million would have been paid at the end of this school year to the 1,900 parents who don't send their children to the district's schools. (Pa. District Gives Go-Ahead To Local Voucher Plan," April 1, 1998.)

Richard Komer, the lawyer handling the case for the Washington-based Institute for Justice, a conservative, pro-voucher group representing the district, said the judge implied that the district's solution to its problems was more creative than it had a right to be.

The case against the district was brought by a group of parents and teachers.

Mr. Mundy said the board will most likely appeal the ruling.

--Linda Jacobson

Fla. Questions Textbook Prices

A report on instructional materials in Florida recommends that the state attorney general look into the business practices of national textbook publishers to make sure they aren't controlling prices.

It also notes that children in at least 24 of the 59 districts that returned the survey don't have a textbook for every class that uses it as a primary teaching tool.

Among the findings of the in-depth study by Florida's Senate education committee released this month is evidence suggesting that publishers may be acting to control prices or restrict competition in textbook sales. Such practices are prohibited by state law.

The conclusion is based largely on reports from most Florida districts that textbook prices vary little among the five publishers that dominate the market.

Richard Blake, the vice president of the school division of the New York City-based Association of American Publishers, said that publishers have to be consistent in their pricing nationwide to comply with state laws obligating them not to favor certain states with discounts.

--Mary Ann Zehr

Mich. County Aids Young Truants

Oakland Schools, a regional district in southeastern Michigan, has instituted a project aimed at reducing repeated absences among 2nd and 3rd graders.

A joint initiative of the Oakland Schools, the Oakland County prosecutor's office, and the Oakland County Superintendents Association, the Early Truancy Intervention Program will try to identify children who are not regularly attending school and provide them with the services they might need to improve their attendance.

Such aid could include family counseling or medical help. The long-term goal is to stem chronic truancy and delinquent behavior in the county, which includes the city of Pontiac.

Parents will first be notified of a child's repeat absences. If the pattern continues, the prosecutor's office will be alerted.

In Michigan, parents who violate the compulsory-education law can be fined $100 and sentenced to 90 days in jail.

Oakland Schools, which serves both public and private schools, is made up of 28 local districts throughout the county with a total enrollment of roughly 200,000 students.

--Linda Jacobson

Teenage Drinking

A recent nationwide survey of 600 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 found that 61 percent had consumed alcohol on at least one day in the past month. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points. Those who had consumed alcohol were asked these questions:

Ky. Board Member Suspended

A Pike County, Ky., school board member has been suspended by the Kentucky education department in lieu of a hearing on charges of mismanagement.

W. Keith Hall, whose lawyer negotiated the suspension because Mr. Hall had only been in the position for a year and several of the offenses took place before he was a member, was one of three school board members accused of failing to make former Superintendent Reo Johns comply with proper procedures.

In addition to an eight-month suspension, Mr. Hall has to attend all board meetings as a nonvoting member, and he must complete six hours of personnel- and finance-management training from the Kentucky School Boards Association.

Two other board members, Alvin Newsome, the board's chairman, and Shannon Justice, resigned in August rather than face possible removal by the state. Mr. Johns resigned in May.

The former board members could not be reached for comment.

--Karen L. Abercrombie

Technology Helps Teach, Poll Says

Although educators are convinced that technology has been a benefit to education, many say American schools still could be getting more out of technology, according to a poll released last week.

In the national survey of 811 teachers and administrators, 78 percent said they have seen increased achievement as a result of their school's technology purchases. The poll was co-sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators and the Lightspan Partnership, an educational software developer based in San Diego.

About 60 percent of the respondents said they have seen increased student motivation, 42 percent said they noticed better content mastery, and 30 percent saw better test scores.

Only 37 percent said their school's instructional software was "consistently integrated" into the curriculum.

--Jeff Archer

Calif. Court Questions Redistricting

A California appeals court has ordered the Nevada County school board to prove in a lower court that it applied an equitable technique for redistricting when it consolidated seven voting districts into five in 1996.

Several county residents, including former school board member David DuPell, filed a lawsuit challenging the school board's use of voter registration instead of population to redraw district lines.

The Third District of the Court of Appeal in Sacramento last month remanded the case back to Nevada County Superior Court. No hearing date has been set.

The use of voter-registration files resulted in unequal numbers of voters and board members in each jurisdiction. And that violated the "one-man, one-vote" principle of elections, argued Kevin T. Snider, a lawyer for the United States Justice Foundation, a conservative legal group in Escondido, Calif., which represented the plaintiffs in the suit.

The board consolidated the districts as part of its reduction in school board members from seven to five. Because of the way the new districts were drawn, Mr. Dupell charged that he was unfairly forced off the board.

--Robert C. Johnston

Hare Krishna Schools Report Abuse

The Hare Krishna religious movement has revealed that some children who attended its boarding schools in the 1970s and 1980s were the victims of abuse and neglect by school employees.

A study, "Child Abuse in the Hare Krishna Movement: 1971-1986," published this month in the organization's official publication, the Iskcon Communications Journal, reports that some of the students were physically, psychologically, and sexually abused.

Many children, as young as age 4 or 5, were sent to live in the boarding schools on a year-round basis.

The study, written by E. Burke Rochford Jr., a sociologist at Middlebury College in Vermont, says the schools were often staffed by untrained devotees.

Although it is uncertain how many children were abused, it is estimated that 20 percent to 75 percent of all students suffered some form of mistreatment over the years, according to Mr. Rochford. At its peak, between 1975 and 1978, there were 11 Hare Krishna boarding schools open in the United States. They have since been shut down in favor of community day schools.

--Adrienne D. Coles

Boy Found Dead on Campus

The body of a 15-year-old sophomore was found bludgeoned to death in a storage shed behind San Juan High School in Citrus Heights, Calif.

A teacher discovered Vladimir Gayduchik's body in a rarely used area on the 40-acre campus. Fire department officials on the scene said the boy died as a result of blunt force trauma.

Police officers determined that the student died sometime after school hours Oct. 6, when school security was not monitoring activities on campus. No arrests have been made.

School officials said the safety record in the 70,000-student San Juan Unified School District is better than the county and state averages. But modifications to the 1,200-student school's safety programs may be made once the investigation of the case is complete.

--Michelle Galley

Vol. 18, Issue 8, Page 4

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