News in Brief: A National Roundup
San Francisco Desegregation Decree Is Officially Ended
Approving a settlement to a lawsuit brought by students denied admission to their preferred schools because of their ethnicity, a federal judge has ordered an end to a 16-year-old desegregation plan in San Francisco's public schools.
In a tentative settlement reached in February between the plaintiffs and the school district, school officials agreed to stop using race and ethnicity as determining factors in assigning students to schools in the 62,000-student district.
That agreement ended a federal discrimination suit brought by Chinese-American students and their parents in 1994 over a district policy that says no one racial or ethnic group should make up more than 45 percent of the student population at a regular school or 40 percent at an alternative school. ("San Francisco Desegregation Decree To End," Feb. 24, 1999.)
Judge William H. Orrick Jr.'s April 20 approval of that settlement--a written opinion is expected this week--came amid protests that a colorblind admissions policy could resegregate the city's schools.
The district has until fall to draw up a new enrollment plan for the 2000-01 school year. While specifics of the plan have not yet been mapped out, Anthony Anderson, an assistant superintendent of schools, said the new policy would be one in which "race is a factor but not the primary factor."
--Kerry A. White
Washington Teachers To Get Raise
Following a rash of teacher walkouts--capped by one in Seattle that shut down the district--lawmakers in Washington state last week approved a salary increase. Over the next two years, new teachers will receive 15 percent raises, veteran teachers will receive 10 percent raises, and mid-level teachers will receive 8 percent raises.
Teachers in nearly 40 districts statewide, including the roughly 4,000 teachers and classroom aides in Seattle who walked out late last month, had been protesting what they said was inadequate pay. Although legislators meeting in Olympia expressed anger at the teachers' tactics, they passed the richest package that had been under consideration. Teacher leaders said the pay increase was only a down payment on an across-the-board increase of 15 percent that they contend is deserved.
The Washington Education Association has begun collecting 179,000 signatures to get an initiative on the November ballot to force the legislature to give teachers annual cost-of-living raises, regardless of a general state spending cap approved by voters in 1993.
Survey Cites Lack of Basic Values
Roughly one in three Americans believes that not learning basic values is the most serious problem facing young people, according to a national survey being released this week.
The survey, conducted by the New York City-based opinion-research group Public Agenda, found that 33 percent of white adults and 31 percent of minority adults believe that not learning values such as honesty, respect, and responsibility is the biggest problem facing young people. That topped such problems as drug and alcohol abuse and crime and gangs.
The study, the second in a planned series of five, also found that 49 percent of the general public blames parents for children's shortcomings. The first was released in 1997; the last is planned for 2002.
Public Agenda polled a random sample of 1,005 people nationwide, 384 of whom were parents of children under age 18. The group also surveyed 328 teenagers.
Highlights of "Kids These Days '99: What Americans Really Think About the Next Generation" are on the World Wide Web at www.publicagenda.org/specials/kids/kids.htm. The full 12-page report is available free from Public Agenda, (212) 686-6610.
Brown To Resign in Milwaukee
Days after a newly elected school board was installed in Milwaukee, Superintendent Alan S. Brown indicated that he would step down from his post as early as this week.
Mr. Brown, 50, has headed the 105,000-student district since October 1997. The superintendent, who earns $135,000 a year, received a two-year contract extension from the old school board last fall.
Although a formal announcement was not expected until this week, several sources confirmed late last week that his departure was imminent.
School board member John S. Gardner, the sole incumbent to win a seat in last month's contentious board elections, explained that Mr. Brown and city lawyers needed to hammer out a buyout package before formally announcing his resig- nation.
At a special school board meeting May 5, the nine-member schools panel is expected to consider and perhaps name a replacement for Mr. Brown.
Nev. Board Lifts Cap on Testing
Nevada's juniors and seniors can now take the state's graduation test as many times as they need in order to pass it. The state board of education voted late last month to lift the cap on the number of times students are allowed to take the test. Students previously were allowed five attempts.
The board also added a testing date for seniors this school year; about 3,000 out of the state's more than 20,000 seniors still haven't passed the exam. Students must pass the test to receive a diploma.
This year's test is the first to reflect new, tougher academic standards, and the board had been under pressure to relax some of the requirements.
Students will have at least seven chances to take the test during their junior and senior years and will be allowed to keep taking it after senior year if necessary.
The board has agreed to allow some special education students to use calculators on the mathematics portion of the test, and board members are weighing allowing all students to use calculators.
ACLU Sues Over Scouting
The Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has sued the Chicago school district and the federal government over their involvement with the Boy Scouts of America. The federal suit contends that governmental entities that sponsor Scouting groups violate the First Amendment's prohibition against government establishment of religion because the Scouts require students to affirm a belief in God.
The Boy Scouts are not named in the suit, which was filed April 14 in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The suit names the Chicago public schools and the U.S. Transportation Command, a U.S. Department of Defense unit at Scott Air Force Base in southern Illinois. The school district sponsors several Scout troops, including a Sea Scout ship affiliated with Kelly High School in Chicago, the suit says. The Air Force base also sponsors a Boy Scout troop, according to the suit.
The suit names several Chicago-area residents as plaintiffs, stating that they object to spending federal and state tax dollars to help support a group that prohibits participation of those who refuse to affirm a belief in God.
The suit seeks an injunction barring the government agencies from sponsoring Scouting units.
"Based on our review, we don't think we have any liability under the First Amendment," said Marilyn Johnson, a lawyer for the Chicago school system.
Judge Puts Hold on Union Fees
A federal judge has ordered a halt to the deduction of union fees from the paychecks of six California teachers, at least until their local unions provide an accounting of how the money is being spent.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in 1997 by eight educators--two of whom have since retired--who were all agency-fee payers. That means they were not members of their districts' unions but had to pay union fees to cover the cost of representation in collective bargaining. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that such employees must be told how the union funds are allocated.
Rather than providing their own audits of their expenses, however, the six local unions in the California case used a formula based on the spending of their state affiliate, the California Teachers Association, in determining how much agency-fee payers would have to contribute
Judge Charles Legge of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco agreed last month that the locals must provide greater disclosure. In the meantime, he ruled that no more union fees should be taken from the teachers' wages.
NSF Pulls New Orleans Funding
Four years into its five-year award under the National Science Foundation's Urban Systemic Initiative, the 82,000-student New Orleans schools will lose up to $4.3 million of funding that would have been available for the final year of the program.
The district had been on probation for six months before receiving final notice last month that its funding under the federal initiative would end prematurely, said Henry W. Reed, the director of mathematics, science, and technology for the Orleans Parish school system. To date, the district has received $10.1 million under the grant.
"The probation, the continuing slow progress of reform, the many deficiencies and concerns about leadership, and the continuing poor mathematics and science achievement of the participating students form the basis for the decision to phase out the award," NSF program director Joseph Reed Jr. wrote in an April 5 letter to the school district.
Mr. Reed of New Orleans acknowledged that the school district failed to implement several aspects of its original proposal to the NSF and had not demonstrated marked achievement in math and science test scores.
--Erik W. Robelen
Vol. 18, Issue 34, Page 4