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Published in Print: November 20, 2002, as News in Brief: A National Roundup

News in Brief: A National Roundup

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NTSB Calls for Limits On Teenage Drivers

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that states limit teenage drivers with provisional licenses to carrying only one passenger under age 20, unless accompanied by an adult over age 21.The independent federal agency, whose recommendations often carry great weight with state policymakers, said in a Nov. 8 safety recommendation that allowing inexperienced drivers to drive with multiple teenage passengers can have "tragic consequences."

In 2000, according to the safety board, people under the age of 20 made up 6.76 percent of the driving population, but 14.28 percent of those killed in driving accidents were ages 15 to 20.

The board recommended that the restrictions on carrying multiple passengers last for six months or until the driver has received an unrestricted license, whichever is longer.

—Ann Bradley

University of California President Discloses Plans to Retire

Richard C. Atkinson, the president of the University of California system, who is credited with helping to spark an overhaul of the nation's college-admissions tests and guiding a new era of minority recruitment on his own campuses, last week announced he will resign effective Oct. 1, 2003.

The 73-year-old administrator will have served eight years by the time he leaves the post, in which he oversees a nine-campus, 187,000- student system.

Mr. Atkinson's criticisms were widely viewed as influencing the College Board's decision earlier this year to revamp the SAT I, the most widely used college-entrance examination in the country. He had criticized the test as not evaluating students on what they learned in high school, and suggested the UC system would stop using it entirely unless it was changed.

Mr. Atkinson took office shortly after the university's board of regents decided to phase out affirmative action in its admissions. During his tenure, the university system adopted aggressive recruiting policies that helped build minority enrollment.

The UC board of regents plans to conduct a national search for his replacement.

—Sean Cavanagh

Teachers Walk Out In Billings, Mont.

Teachers in Billings, Mont., were on strike last week, and officials on both sides of the dispute warned of little progress in the state's first teacher strike since 1975.

Some 1,100 educators walked off the job on Nov. 8, joined by 400 custodians, paraprofessionals, and secretaries, said Eric Feaver, the president of the MEA-MFT, a merged affiliate of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

The dispute over a contract to replace an agreement that expired in June centers on health-care benefits and teacher salaries. Teachers are seeking a 3 percent across-the- board raise in the one-year agreement, Mr. Feaver said.

The Billings board of trustees has offered 1.5 percent, said Susan Lubbers, the communications coordinator for the 15,800-student district. Beginning educators in Billings currently earn $24,990.

Meanwhile, a 16-day walkout by 220 teachers in Red Wing, Minn., concluded last week when negotiators in the 3,100-student district reached an agreement.

—Julie Blair

Yale, Stanford Change Early-Decision Policies

Yale and Stanford universities have become the latest institutions of higher education to do away with the binding early-decision process.

Officials on both campuses said such policies put too much pressure on teenagers to make a final choice about college too quickly.

Early decision typically allows a high school student to apply to his or her top-choice college or university in October or November, about three months ahead of the standard schedule.

Those teenagers are usually told if they have been accepted by December, at which time they are bound by agreement to attend that school, and not consider other colleges.

Both Yale University, in New Haven, Conn., and Stanford University, in Palo Alto., Calif., will instead use a process in which students can apply and be accepted early, but are no longer bound to attend the schools.

—Sean Cavanagh

San Diego Board Member Files Complaint Over Election

The dust has yet to settle following this month's closely watched school board election in San Diego, where one of the winning candidates is accusing his opponent and the local Republican Party of violating California campaign-finance laws. ("Teachers Seek School Board Overhaul," Oct. 30. 2002.)

John deBeck, an incumbent who handily defeated retired FBI agent Clyde Fuller, alleges that Mr. Fuller and the Republican Party of San Diego County ran afoul of state rules regulating independent campaigns. Such campaigns allow groups or individuals to get around contribution limits, but efforts to do so must be carried out independent of the organized efforts of the candidates themselves.

Mr. deBeck contends that mailers sent to voters by the local GOP were nearly identical to some put out by Mr. Fuller's campaign. "They had to be prepared by the same printer, the same consultant," said Mr. deBeck, who asked the California Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate in a Nov. 2 letter.

Local Republican officials counter that the complaint misinterprets the law, which they say allows political parties to coordinate efforts with a candidate so long as it involves sending materials only to members of that party. The mailings in question were sent only to Republican voters, and so represented internal communications, and not independent expenditures, said Alan Smith, a spokesman for the San Diego GOP.

—Jeff Archer

Bankrupt WorldCom Keeps Internet Program Afloat

MarcoPolo, a free program that has trained more than 150,000 teachers in the use of the Internet, will operate through 2003, thanks to $6 million committed last week by the bankrupt telecommunications giant WorldCom Inc.

The program fell into financial crisis in July, when WorldCom, its sole backer, entered bankruptcy amid corporate scandal, criminal indictments of key officers, a crashing stock value, and layoffs.

Before last week's news, little progress had been made in finding donors to replace the Clinton, Miss.-based company's largess, which has totaled $50 million since 1997. ("WorldCom Fall Imperils Ed. Tech Aid," Sept. 18, 2002.)

Caleb M. Schutz, the WorldCom vice president in charge of the program, called the company's decision to restore support "historic" and "a miracle" that reflected the partial recovery of the company from its woes.

—Andrew Trotter

Dallas School Board Votes To Seek Desegregation Hearing

The Dallas school board voted 8-1 last week to seek a federal court hearing on whether the district has met the requirements of a 30-year-old desegregation order. The decision marks the first time since 1993 that the district has approached the courts in an effort to have the desegregation order lifted.

The last progress the district made on the order was in 1994, when U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders ruled that the 166,000-student district was unitary, meaning that schools are no longer segregated, said Ken Zornes, the president of the Dallas board of trustees.

At that time, Judge Sanders said the district could be released from the desegregation order—which puts it under close court supervision—if it met certain requirements, such as improving academic achievement among minority students, Mr. Zornes said.

Superintendent Mike Moses and other representatives of the district will argue that the district has now met those requirements, the board president said.

—Michelle Galley

Tornado Destroys Town's Schools

The people in Carbon Hill, Ala., have had a rough year.

First, the small town's high school burned down in June. Then, a tornado swept through the community on Nov. 10, killing seven residents and ravaging the public elementary and junior high school, which serves about 540 students. No one was in the school facility at the time. The tornado was among a series of violent storms that struck last week, mostly in the South and Midwest.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a total loss," said Alan Trotter, the superintendent of the 8,000-student Walker County district, when asked about the damage to Carbon Hill Elementary/Junior High School. "It's kind of like you had a head-on collision with a concrete wall."

Rescue officials have estimated that about one-third of the buildings in Carbon Hill—a town about 60 miles northwest of Birmingham—were destroyed by the tornado.

After the high school fire in June, the district constructed what the superintendent called a "modular campus" made up of trailers that were connected by elevated walkways.

Mr. Trotter said the plan for the short term will likely involve a split day at the temporary high school facility, where younger children use the classrooms for half the day and older children for the other half. He was hopeful that the K-8 students could begin half-day classes as soon as this week.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 22, Issue 12, Page 4

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