News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Pa. Bill on Recertification, Alternative Schools Passes
The Pennsylvania legislature has given final passage to a bill
requiring teachers to take education courses in order to be
A late addition to the bill, which Republican Gov. Tim Ridge is expected to sign, would allow for-profit companies to manage alternative schools for disruptive students.
Teachers in such schools would not be required to have state licenses.
The legislation would allow Philadelphia officials to contract with Community Education Partners of Houston to open a high school next fall for students who have had trouble with the law, are behind academically, or have behavioral problems.
Experienced teachers in regular schools would have to take six credits of college courses or participate in 180 hours of professional training every five years.
Okla. To Add Evolution Disclaimer
Oklahoma's textbook committee has voted to insert a statement questioning the theory of evolution into every textbook that deals with the topic.
Evolution is "a controversial theory which some scientists present as scientific explanation for the origin of living things," says the disclaimer the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee approved unanimously this month.
The statement further says that evolution may describe why species change from one form to another, but that some evidence casts doubt on whether living species emerged from those same organisms.
How schools teach the theories that started with Charles Darwin's research in the 19th century has heated up anew since August, when the Kansas school board adopted science standards omitting nearly all references to evolution.
The Oklahoma panel has jurisdiction over all textbooks purchased with state money. It has 11 members, all of them appointed by Gov. Frank Keating, a Republican.
—David J. Hoff
Teacher Board Autonomy Urged
Kentucky's Education Professional Standards Board, created in 1990 to govern teacher preparation and licensure, should be reconstituted to become autonomous, a task force examining teacher quality in the state has recommended.
Formed by the legislature in January, the task force also called for the state's 26 teacher-preparation programs to better align their curricula with expectations for K-12 students.
The professional-standards board, the task force recommended, should set "clear and meaningful consequences" for postsecondary institutions that prepare teachers.
In its report released this month, the task force also calls for the expansion of programs to bring nontraditional candidates into teaching. The state's current options for so-called alternative certification, it concludes, haven't been used widely because teacher-preparation institutions and teacher organizations have been cautious about embracing them.
NEA Affiliate Top Donor in Illinois
The Illinois Education Association was the largest donor in state politics during the 1997-98 campaign cycle, surpassing the Illinois State Medical Society, according to an analysis by a political scientist.
The state affiliate of the National Education Association contributed $1.9 million to Illinois political candidates during the period, including $273,000 to Republican Gov. George Ryan during his campaign, according to Kent Redfield, the director of the Sunshine Project at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
The union's commitment to its gubernatorial choice and "the ongoing partisan battle over control of the state legislature all contributed to a surge in IEA contributions," Mr. Redfield said.
He described the union and the state medical society as the "big two" interest groups in state politics. The 1997-98 election cycle marked the third time that the pair topped $1 million each in contributions, he said. The medical group, which contributed $1.4 million in 1997-98, had led the previous two election cycles before being surpassed by the IEA.
The Illinois Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, was in sixth place during the same cycle, with $608,000 in contributions.
Second Suit Challenges Tax Credit
Illinois' tuition-tax-credit program has been hit with a second legal challenge.
A coalition of nine education and advocacy groups filed suit this month in state court in Sangamon County seeking to overturn the law. The coalition, which includes the Illinois Education Association and the People for the American Way Foundation, contends that the law violates the state constitution by favoring parents of students attending private and parochial schools.
The Illinois Federation of Teachers filed a similar lawsuit against the tax credit in July in Franklin County.
State lawmakers last spring approved the plan to provide annual tax credits of up to $500, or 25 percent of the cost of tuition and other educational expenses, to parents who pay for tuition, books, or lab fees at private or public schools.
The Washington-based Institute for Justice, an organization that defends school choice measures, will represent 12 Illinois families who wish to take advantage of the tax credit and serve as defendants in both court cases.
—Jessica L. Sandham
Vol. 19, Issue 13, Page 19