News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Arizona Governor Taps Aide for State's Top Schools Job
Gov. Jane Dee Hull of Arizona picked Jaime A. Molera, one of her top aides, to replace Lisa Graham Keegan as the state's schools chief last week.
Although he is only 33, Mr. Molera is a veteran of Arizona's education policy wars.
From 1995 to 1997, he served under Ms. Keegan as an associate superintendent in the state department of education. Then, after joining the Republican governor's staff as education policy adviser in 1997, he played a central role in crafting and winning legislative approval of a court-ordered rewrite of the state's system for financing school facilities, according to the governor's office.
More recently, he played a similar role, after becoming the governor's chief lobbyist and legislative-policy adviser, in developing and winning passage of a hard-fought plan to raise the sales tax to bolster education spending, which was approved by voters last fall.
"He has shown he can build bridges to people across the state to benefit the students," Gov. Hull said in a statement announcing the appointment. "He comes to the office with drive, skill, firsthand knowledge of state government, and appreciable experience in education policy and reform."
Mr. Molera took office May 10, and will serve out the remainder of Ms. Keegan's term, which expires in January 2003. The post of superintendent of public instruction is an elected one in Arizona, and the job is next slated to be on the ballot in November of next year.
Ms. Keegan resigned last week to become the chief executive officer of the Education Leaders Council, a Washington-based group that she and another handful Republican chief state school officers helped found in 1995. ("Arizona Chief Quits To Head Education Leaders Council," May 9, 2001.)
Fla. OKs Bill on Teacher Misconduct
Aiming to crack down on misconduct by public school employees, Florida lawmakers have passed legislation that requires districts to adopt policies for reporting "improper" behavior by teachers and other certified staff members.
The Florida Senate on May 9 overwhelmingly approved the measure, which Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, is expected to sign.
The legislation grew out of a case earlier this year in which a teacher in Broward County was accused of offering a student money in exchange for sex.
"Today is a great day for our students and hard-working public school teachers," Charlie Crist, the state education commissioner, said in a statement.
Under the legislation, the commissioner could suspend a superintendent's pay if he or she didn't enforce the reporting policies. In addition, superintendents, at the commissioner's request, would have to reassign a teacher accused of improper behavior to a job that didn't involve contact with students.
The House of Representatives passed the legislation May 3. Its sponsors were Republican Rep. Rafael Arza and Democratic Sen. Rod Smith.
Calif. Test Called Unfair to Disabled
California's new high school exit exam is the target of a lawsuit charging that it is unfair to children with learning disabilities who may lose their shot at a diploma because of failing the test.
Disability Rights Advocates, an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit group, filed the class action in federal court last week on behalf of three dyslexic teenagers it says will struggle to pass the exam, which this year's freshmen must pass to graduate.
The suit maintains that the state fails to offer an alternative assessment for students with disabilities, as required by federal law, and that the test questions are not aligned with state curriculum standards.
Disability Rights Advocates predicts that more than 90 percent of students with disabilities will fail the exit exam in its current form.
The language arts and mathematics test was given for the first time this spring. State officials still haven't decided what score will be considered passing, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Instruction said.
"It might be a bit premature for people to make assumptions that these students will or will not pass this test," said Doug Stone, the department's communications director.
—David J. Hoff
Governance Changes Pass in Fla.
At long last, Florida's governor will be able to appoint the state board of education.
More than two years after state voters approved a referendum giving the governor that power, the state House of Representatives passed the legislation on May 4, one day after it had passed in the Senate.
Wielding such authority has been a policy goal of Florida's governors for decades.
The law authorizes the governor to appoint a seven-member board of education that will oversee the state's entire education system, from its elementary and secondary schools up through its colleges and universities.
The so-called "K- 20" governance structure would replace a system in which separate boards govern precollegiate and higher education. Under the current system, public school policy is set by an executive Cabinet made up of statewide elected officials, including the secretaries of agriculture and banking, among others.
"This is an historic piece of legislation, and I commend our legislators for passing it," Commissioner of Education Charlie Crist said in a statement.
Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, has said he intends to the sign the legislation, which would take effect in 2003. Voters approved the referendum in November 1998, but the consent of the legislature and governor was required for the changes to occur.
Vol. 20, Issue 36, Page 21