News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Minn. Lawmakers Leave Standards in Place
Minnesota's controversial graduation standards will remain in place, after state lawmakers were unable to reach a compromise on how and whether to modify them. ("Minnesota Weighs Profile of Learning's Fate," May 12, 1999.)
The legislature adjourned May 17 without taking action on the Profile of Learning, which requires students to complete performance tasks in a range of subject areas. The House voted earlier to repeal the graduation requirements, which took nearly 10 years to develop.
The state teachers' union, Education Minnesota, has criticized the Profile of Learning. Teachers complain that the initiative provides too little professional development and requires too much paperwork. But Gov. Jesse Ventura spoke out strongly in favor of keeping the standards.
Wisconsin Uncovers Unexpected $58.2 Million Windfall
Wisconsin lawmakers have an unexpected additional $58.2 million to spend on the fiscal 2000-2001 biennial budget, according to the state's legislative fiscal bureau.
The windfall, announced this month, was discovered when the bureau reviewed tax collections and economic forecasts along with spending and tax proposals in the budget, said Jeff Schoenfeldt, a legislative aide.
Republicans are hoping to use the money for income-tax cuts and to increase the state share of funding given to public schools, while Democrats are calling for property-tax cuts, according to Mr. Schoenfeldt, a spokesman for GOP Rep. John Gard, the co-chairman of the legislature's joint finance committee.
Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican, has proposed cutting income taxes, but not property taxes.
Lawmakers are aiming to wrap up the budget process by June 30, the end of the fiscal year, Mr. Schoenfeldt said.
Alaska Senate OKs Native-Language Legislation
The Alaska Senate has passed a measure that would allow school districts with a majority of Native-Alaskan students to teach in Native languages. But the bill is on hold until next year because the legislature adjourned last week before the House voted on it.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Georgianna "Georg" Lincoln, a Democrat, would require such districts to establish a Native-language-curriculum advisory board for each school in which a majority of students are Alaskan Natives. If such an advisory board recommended the establishment of such programs, local school boards could recommend schools start teaching in Native languages, although they would not be required to do so.
A few districts in the state already teach their curricula in Native languages, according to Harry Gamble, a spokesman for the state education department.
The measure passed May 12 by a vote of 19-1. Sen. Jerry Ward, a Republican, proposed an unsuccessful amendment that would have weakened the requirement for advisory boards but broadened the bill to cover the entire state.
--Adrienne D. Coles
N.C. Board Clarifies School Performance Labels
The North Carolina school board decided this month to clarify the designations given to schools under the state's accountability plan in response to complaints that the "adequate" label used to describe individual schools' performance was misleading. ("How To Gauge Accountability Proving Ticklish for N. Carolina," Nov. 4, 1998.)
Schools are rated according to how they measure up to state expectations on state tests. Beginning with test results for this school year, which will be reported in August, schools that do not meet the state's expectations on end-of-year tests will receive a rating of "no recognition." Last year, such schools--even those with a high percentage of failing students--were referred to as "adequate." But critics said that that label glossed over the schools' inadequate performance.
Meanwhile, the North Carolina legislature has voted to amend the state's school personnel law to limit teachers' noninstructional duties, especially for new teachers and veteran teachers who wish to mentor inexperienced colleagues. The amendment would require that local school boards create policies that minimize the amount of time the teachers spend supervising the cafeteria, hallways, and restrooms. The measure, supporters argued, would allow teachers to focus more on instruction and planning. Gov. James B. Hunt III is expected to sign the bill this week.
--Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Vol. 18, Issue 37, Pages 18-19