News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
McBride Appears to Beat Reno in Fla. Contest
The race for governor in Florida may focus more heavily on K-12 education, now that Tampa-area lawyer Bill McBride—the choice of the state teachers' union—has apparently upset former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary.
Final results were pending as of press time because of widespread problems at the polls, especially in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Ms. Reno may challenge the primary results in court.
Unofficial results as of late last week showed Mr. McBride, who had had the benefit of TV commercials run by the Florida Education Association, ahead of Ms. Reno by about 8,000 votes.
Mr. McBride had received about 601,000 votes to Ms. Reno's 593,000, with all of the state's 6,700 precincts reporting. State Senator Daryl L. Jones finished third, with about 156,000 votes.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who has championed a long list of education accountability laws in the past four years. His programs include the assignment of letter grades for each school, based on test scores, and a menu of school choice options that thousands of Florida students are using this year. ("Florida Sees Surge in Use of Vouchers," Sept. 4, 2002.)
Mr. McBride wants to raise cigarette taxes to pay for smaller classes and higher teacher salaries. The teachers' union, meanwhile, considers him its best bet to dismantle some of Mr. Bush's initiatives, especially state-financed tuition vouchers.
State Commissioner of Education Charlie Crist easily won the Republican primary for attorney general. Mr. Crist is stepping down this year, making way for former GOP state Sen. Jim Horne to take over the new post of education secretary—a position filled by gubernatorial appointment.
Ariz. Chief Loses Primary Run To Phoenix Lawyer Horne
Jaime A. Molera, Arizona's state superintendent of schools, lost his bid for his party's nomination for that post last week to Phoenix lawyer Tom Horne, in an expensive GOP primary race that saw some sharp exchanges between the candidates.
Mr. Horne vastly outspent Mr. Molera, who had been appointed to succeed former state schools chief Lisa Graham Keegan in May 2001.
In his campaign, Mr. Horne touted his experience as the president of the Paradise Valley school board and as a former state legislator.
But Mr. Horne also attacked Mr. Molera's decision to delay the state's controversial graduation exams from 2002 until 2006, and also accused him of being lax in enforcing the English-only laws passed by voters in a 2000 statewide referendum.
Mr. Horne will face Democratic state Sen. Jay Blanchard in the November general election. Mr. Blanchard has vowed to dismantle the state's graduation exam.
—Joetta L. Sack
Texas Groups Issue Warning On State of School Funding
A report card from two groups of Texas school administrators paints a grim scenario for the Lone Star State's precollegiate education system.
The Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards contend in their "Report Card on Texas Education" that without significant additional funding from the legislature, public schools will soon face a major crisis.
By next fall, the report says, as many as 400 of the state's 1,040 school districts will reach a state-imposed property-tax cap and will have no alternative but to slash programs. Making matters worse, Texas faces a budget deficit estimated at $5 billion.
"Without a substantial injection of cash, the very near future of the Texas education system will be characterized by plummeting test scores, an increasing number of dropouts, severe cuts in essential curricula, and massive teacher layoffs," the groups say.
A legislative committee studying school finance will make recommendations for changes when lawmakers meet for their biennial session next year.
Local Board Votes Delayed In 21 Louisiana Parishes
Twenty-one school systems in Louisiana won't be holding school board elections this fall because of questions about local redistricting based on the 2000 U.S. Census.
All Louisiana parishes—the equivalent of counties in other states— were required to redraw their internal political boundaries to adjust for demographic changes when the new Census data became available.
But 19 parishes failed to get what is called "pre-clearance" from the U.S. Department of Justice for their plans, said Frances Hurst, the director of elections in the Louisiana Department of State. Another two parishes, Ouachita and St. Bernard, gained such pre-clearances, but legal challenges led a court to block the elections in those two parishes.
As a result, no school board elections may take place in 20 school systems. Louisiana has 68 school systems in all.
The soonest any system can hold another election is in April.
W. F. "Freddie" Whitford, the executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, said this was not the first time school board elections had been delayed because of redistricting. But he doesn't recall such a widespread effect before.
"It seems like it's an unusually high number," he said.
— Erik W. Robelen
Calif. Bonds Have Slim Edge In Latest Statewide Poll
A $12.3 billion school construction bond—the largest in California's history—would pass if the November election were held now, according to an independent poll.
And a major expansion of after-school programs also would pass, according to a Sept. 6 poll released by the Field Institute, a nonpartisan polling firm in San Francisco.
But both majorities were within the poll's margin of error.
Fifty-four percent of 765 likely voters surveyed in August said they would approve the school construction initiative, though 13 percent were undecided.
Meanwhile, 51 percent said they would approve the after-school expansions, though 14 percent were undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
—Joetta L. Sack
Vol. 22, Issue 3, Page 19