News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Judge OKs Parent Lawsuits Under Proposition 227
California parents can sue teachers and school administrators who fail to carry out Proposition 227, which largely eliminates bilingual education in the state's schools, a federal judge has ruled.
Groups representing educators had claimed in their lawsuit that the provision in the 1998 ballot measure that permits parents to sue individual educators for enforcement is unconstitutional. They argued that the statute is vague in spelling out what conduct is not permitted by educators and would expose them to litigation.
But U.S. District Judge Edward M. Rafeedie of Los Angeles disagreed and dismissed the suit this month. "The court concludes, as have many other courts, that teachers do not have a First Amendment right to be free of regulations which tell them to follow a method of instruction or a curriculum," he wrote.
--Mary Ann Zehr
Teacher Requirements Stiffened
Two states, Kansas and New York, have approved plans to change their teacher education requirements this month.
The Kansas state school board voted 7-2 to switch one of its certification exams from a basic-skills test to a content-based one, and to reduce the number of subject specialities available to teachers.
"Nobody was getting certified in a lot of these specialized areas anyhow," said Ken Bungert, the director of certification and teacher education for the state education department. He said areas such as business law, shorthand, wood shop, and metal shop, and many others were either already certified by another state board or were too specialized for someone to be employed only in that area.
In New York, the state board of regents approved an overhaul of teacher education with many of the changes to become effective next fall.
New teachers will be required to take a core set of courses in the liberal arts and sciences, complete college majors in the subjects they will teach, and obtain higher passing scores on the state's three certification exams. The requirements also call for teacher education programs to ensure that their candidates can pass the state certification exams.
Durant Resigns From Mich. Board
Citing a desire to "fundamentally rethink" the way Michigan provides public education, Clark Durant stepped down this month from his post on the state school board. Mr. Durant, who was elected to an eight-year term in January 1995, served as the president during his first two years on the board.
"Only by turning over the schools to the public, and by opening an educational marketplace, can we achieve educational excellence," Mr. Durant, a Republican, said in a statement. "I am resigning from the board because this is not the forum where such rethinking can take place."
Mr. Durant, who missed six of 13 board meetings last year, also said he wanted to devote more time and attention to his duties as the chairman of Cornerstone Schools, a group of private, nonprofit alternative schools in Detroit. Gov. John Engler appointed Michael David Warren Jr., a Republican who chaired a state education department task force from 1995 to 1997, to complete Mr. Durant's term.
--Jessica L. Sandham
Standards Stalled in Illinois
Most Illinois teachers have yet to integrate the state's new academic standards into their lesson plans, primarily because they doubt whether the state will stick with the new requirements in the face of the political backlash that often accompanies poor test results, according to a recent report.
The state school board commissioned the study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a way of tracking how schools are implementing the new standards and the accompanying Illinois Standards Achievement Test. Mediocre results from the test, which was given for the first time last spring, were released this month.
State Superintendent Glenn W. McGee said he would meet with district superintendents this week to emphasize the importance of implementing the state standards. "There's a strong relationship between the extent to which standards were implemented and the fact that the scores were not where they could be," he said.
--Jessica L. Sandham
Calif. Law Limits School Deals
California Gov. Gray Davis has signed a bill that limits school districts' ability to enter into exclusive advertising and beverage contracts.
The new law requires districts to hold public hearings before signing such contracts, which have surged in popularity in recent years. The measure also bars districts from contracts that prohibit school employees from disparaging products or services offered by contractors.
The law also places new limits on advertising-supported projects such as the Channel One classroom television show and ZapMe! computers, which carry ads targeted at students. Among other restrictions, the law allows parents to request that their children not be exposed to the advertising from such products.
Gov. Davis, a Democrat, signed the measure Sept. 15. He signed a separate bill late last month that limits the display of commercial brand names and logos in instructional materials. It was a response to a math textbook that uses commercial images in story problems, such as asking students to figure out how much money they would need to save to buy a pair of Nike shoes.
Vol. 19, Issue 5, Page 22