News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Oregon Court Upholds Random Drug Testing
Random drug and alcohol testing of student athletes does not violate the search and seizure protections in the Oregon Constitution, the state appeals court has ruled.
In an Oct. 23 decision, the appellate court upheld the 800-student Oakridge school district's decision in the fall of 2000 to drop Ginelle Weber, who was 15 at the time, from the school's volleyball team after she and her parents refused to consent to a random urinalysis. Earlier that year, the district had adopted a drug-testing policy for student athletes as part of its participation in a national program financed by the National Institutes of Health, according to court documents. The program studied the effectiveness of random drug testing, and included 10 schools in Oregon.
The Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on the Webers' behalf, arguing that the district's policy violated the state bill of rights' protection against unreasonable searches. The school district defended its policy by giving evidence that Oakridge students used alcohol and drugs more than their peers at other Oregon high schools did.
The court ruled that the district's drug tests were reasonable "in relation to the purposes of the policy" to discourage student drug and alcohol use. The ACLU said the plaintiffs may appeal the decision to the state supreme court.
The ruling follows another Oregon case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that random drug testing of student athletes is legal under the federal constitution. ("Court Upholds Drug Tests for Student Athletes," July 12, 1995.)
—Rhea R. Borja
Minneapolis May Open Sports To Charter School Students
Heightening Minnesota's debate over what privileges should be granted to charter school students, the Minneapolis school board may allow students from the independent public schools to join the sports teams at their regular local schools.
Under a measure before the district board, students in the city's charter schools could play sports at the public schools to which they would have been assigned had they not chosen charter schools.
In such instances, the charter schools would pay fees to the regular schools to help underwrite the cost of those schools' athletic programs. Meanwhile, the charter school students would have to meet the same academic and attendance policies as the students in the regular schools.
The issue has cropped up before in Minnesota, the state that originated the charter school concept more than a decade ago. The legislature considered a similar move after a controversy last spring during the state high school basketball tournaments. A star player was declared ineligible because he attended a charter school. The issue never came to a vote in the legislature.
The board of the 49,500-student Minneapolis district is planning to consider the measure this month. If it is approved, some believe the policy could become a model for other districts and for the state.
—Joetta L. Sack
Education Could Be Next On Virginia Chopping Block
Gov. Mark R. Warner of Virginia is warning that K-12 education may not be spared in future budget cuts during the state's worst budget crisis in years.
Hurt by declines in manufacturing and tourism, especially in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., the Democratic governor in recent weeks has announced cuts to higher education and 1,200 layoffs in state agencies.
So far, K-12 education funding has largely been spared. That reprieve may not last, the governor told an audience on Oct. 23 during what was billed as his "State of Education Address."
He called on businesses to help provide school volunteers and resources during the budget crunch. Virginia faced a $1 billion budget shortfall earlier this year as lawmakers put together a $25 billion budget for fiscal 2003. Forecasters predict another shortfall before the fiscal year ends next summer.
Ohio Looks for Technology To Handle Academic Data
Ohio's department of education is looking at ways to overhaul its data-collection system after an advisory panel declared that the agency's 11-year-old computer system is out of date and not up to new demands.
Data collection will be crucial to the state as it faces the new accountability and testing mandates of the federal "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001.
The 15-member advisory panel, which met for the first time last month, was formed after a computer problem resulted in the education department incorrectly naming 203 schools underperforming because of test scores. State schools Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman, who apologized to the districts, has said a major system redesign is needed.
The state needs a system designed to measure student improvement. By contrast, the current system was designed to analyze data for funding purposes, said Bruce Hawkins, a member of the panel and the chief executive officer of the Ohio Education Computer Network, which is an arm of the state education department.
He estimates it would take two years and several million dollars to build the kind of system Ohio needs.
—Joetta L. Sack
Wash. State Reveals Results Of New Test for Teachers
Two-thirds of the 253 prospective teachers who took Washington state's new basic-skills test passed all three sections, the state Professional Education Standards Board has announced.
The test measures skills in reading, writing, and mathematics that the board has deemed necessary for all teachers. It is the first of two tests for prospective teachers developed by the standards board under a state legislative directive in 2000. The results were announced last month.
Beginning last September, the state's higher education institutions began requiring candidates for admission to teacher-preparation programs to pass the test, which they can take several times.
The second test will be in the subject areas for which the candidate is seeking certification to teach. Passing it will be required for certification beginning in September 2005.
The Washington Educator Skills Test-Basic is not an absolute requirement to enter teacher colleges, however. The state law allows colleges and universities to use their judgment to admit some candidates who have not passed the basic test. Before being certified, though, the prospective teachers must pass it.
Vol. 22, Issue 10, Page 21