News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
California Board Approves Prop. 227 Rules
The California state school board has agreed to continue allowing school districts flexibility in how they carry out a new state law that calls for limited-English-proficient students to be taught mostly in English.
The board on Oct. 8 approved final regulations for Proposition 227, which voters approved as a ballot measure last June. The regulations, which are almost identical to emergency rules the board issued over the summer, leave districts free to decide the extent to which students may be taught in their native languages.
Proponents of Proposition 227 have criticized the state rules as too flexible. They say many schools are not following the letter--or spirit--of the new law.
The law calls for most LEP students to be placed for a year in English-immersion classes, where "nearly all" classroom instruction is in English, before moving into the mainstream. The state board also approved a nonbinding policy statement on LEP students that calls for them to become literate in English by being taught in that language.
Mich. High Court Reinstates Special Education Case
The Michigan Supreme Court has overturned a lower court ruling and ordered that court to hear a lawsuit filed by 125 districts over state aid for special education.
The suit was dismissed in June on the grounds that the districts did not provide sufficient evidence to support their claims that the state underfunded its special education mandates by $335 million in the 1997-98 school year.
Last year, the state supreme court ruled in favor of a group of school districts in Durant v. State of Michigan, a similar lawsuit filed in 1980. ("Mich. Districts Chart Course After Spec. Ed. Rulings," June 24, 1998.)
The recent high court ruling directed the appeals court to "resolve expeditiously" the new case, which carries the same name as the first case and is being referred to as Durant II. No new court date has been set, however.
Gov. John Engler was quick to downplay the districts' victory. Mr. Engler, a Republican, helped broker an agreement in the legislature last year to repay $1 billion to districts stemming from the original case.
"We've maintained all along that there's no merit to this," said Mr. Engler's press secretary, John Truscott. "We're very confident that this will be thrown out."
--ROBERT C. JOHNSTON
Voluntary Standards for Ga. School Boards Outlined
Students and teachers in Georgia aren't the only ones who have standards to follow. Now there are expectations for the state's school boards as well.
Drafted by the Georgia School Boards Association, the standards are voluntary. But Gary Ashley, the executive vice president of the group, believes a large percentage of the state's 180 local school boards will try meeting them to "transmit a statement to their communities that they are accountable."
The initiative, which was launched Oct. 7 with the support of Democratic Gov. Zell Miller and state school board Chairman Johnny Isakson, is believed to be unique. But Mr. Ashley said he's already received several inquiries from other states about the standards.
The standards are organized into six major categories. They say that boards should, for example, have a mission statement, adopt a code of ethics for members, hold occasional public forums especially when dealing with controversial issues, refrain from pressuring superintendents to hire people for reasons other than their qualifications, and participate in professional-development activities.
Vol. 18, Issue 8, Page 17