News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Maryland Legislators OK Gun-Safety Education
In a legislative first for the nation, Maryland lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved a bill requiring gun-safety education in the state's public schools.
The measure calls for school districts to develop and incorporate gun-safety lessons into their K-12 curricula according to guidelines that would be drawn up by the state board of education. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, was passed in the waning hours of the legislative session, which ended last week. The final version of the measure represents a compromise between those who feared the National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle safety program might be squeezed out of the mandated lessons and those who worried that only the NRA program—or some other prepackaged lessons—might be used. ("Maryland Ready To Require Gun-Safety Education in Grades K-12," April 11, 2001.) Sen. Barbara H. Hoffman, the Democrat who sponsored the Senate bill, said she was satisfied that the legislation would prevent tragic accidents. "I think there's a lot more ignorance about guns out there than we realize, especially among kids," she said.
Texas Reinstates Three-Year LEP Testing Exemption
The Texas legislature has passed a measure reinstating a three- year exemption for limited-English-proficient students from the state's standardized test.
Under the bill, signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Perry last week, schools will be permitted to exempt LEP students from the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills for up to three years after they enroll in U.S. schools.
The law applies to the state's testing of students only in grades 3-8 and not to the state's high school exit exam, which students take for the first time in 10th grade. It goes into effect immediately, just in time for this year's administration of the TAAS, which is slated to begin at the end of this month.
The new law overturns a 1999 measure that had been scheduled to affect this year's administration of the test. That law would have exempted only LEP students who had attended U.S. schools for one year or less.
— Mary Ann Zehr
NGA Launches 'Extra Learning' Database
The National Governors' Association unveiled a 50-state database tracking state- level initiatives on before- and after-school programs for K-12 students on April 9.
The "extra-learning opportunities" database, available through the Washington-based organization's Center for Best Practices, catalogs programs that receive funding through a variety of sources, including state, federal, and local governments as well as foundations. It is designed to serve as a resource for state policymakers and other officials looking for information about innovative programs in other states or tracking their own states' programs, said Theresa Clarke, a policy analyst for the NGA.
The database can be accessed through the NGA's Web site at www.nga.org/elodata/.
—Jessica L. Sandham
Swift Sworn In as Massachusetts Governor
Lt. Gov. Jane Swift became Massachusetts' first woman governor last week after Gov. Paul Cellucci resigned to become the American ambassador to Canada. Ms. Swift will be the acting governor until next year's gubernatorial election.
Elected to the No. 2 post in 1998, Ms. Swift, a 36- year-old Republican, assumed a high-profile role in promoting the governor's education agenda. Gov. Cellucci had tapped her to be the administration's prominent voice on issues surrounding the state's 7-year-old education reform efforts. Previously, as a state senator, Ms. Swift helped craft the state's 1993 school reform law.
Ms. Swift is a staunch supporter of the state's controversial high-stakes assessment program, and has spoken out on the need to help students struggling to pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS, tests. She initiated a drive to recruit volunteer tutors for 10th graders who don't pass the exam on their first attempt.
During her campaign for lieutenant governor, Ms. Swift made national news when she announced she was pregnant with her first child. Ms. Swift is expecting twins in June and will be the nation's first governor to give birth in office.
Early in her tenure as lieutenant governor, Ms. Swift attracted criticism when it became known that she had asked members of her staff to babysit her daughter, and that she had used a state helicopter to fly home to see her ill daughter in 1999. The state ethics commission fined her $1,250 and ruled that she had created an appearance of impropriety with those actions.
Vol. 20, Issue 31, Page 28