News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
N.C. Steps In to Cut Fees at Elite School
North Carolina's legislature has budgeted $115,000 so that the state's prestigious School of Science and Mathematics can scrap a controversial plan to charge its 565 students $850 each to offset budget cuts.
State lawmakers also launched a study to evaluate the financial needs of the public, residential high school, which opened two decades ago for juniors and seniors throughout the state who excel academically.
As part of the budget deal, school officials will need legislative approval before charging fees in the future.
The school's annual budget has grown by about a third over the past decade, to $12.1 million, because of increased operating costs, though it has not received money to expand or improve programs, school administrators say.
"They've got the best and brightest kids there are in North Carolina, but we've been derelict when it comes to that school," said Rep. R. Eugene Rogers, a Democrat and a co-chairman of the committee that will oversee the study.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Ohio State School Board Backs Teaching of Evolution
The Ohio state board of education has ended its yearlong debate over the teaching of evolution with a unanimous vote on new science standards.
The new standards say the theory of evolution should be taught and clearly say that intelligent design—a theory that suggests evolution didn't happen through natural selection—should not be taught as an alternative to the Darwinian conception of evolution.
People on both sides of the debate claimed victory in the compromise, approved in the Dec. 10 vote.
The standards give a thorough explanation of evolution, and teachers will have to teach the theory if they want children to excel on state tests, according to Eugenie C. Scott, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif., group that fights challenges to evolution.
Meanwhile, the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that promotes the teaching of intelligent design, said that a clause in the standards will require teachers to teach about critics of evolution as well as its supporters.
—David J. Hoff
Missouri Alumni Win Tuition-Refund Case
A group of University of Missouri alumni has prevailed after taking the graduates' alma mater to court for charging them tuition.
In a Dec. 12 ruling, a judge held that the University of Missouri illegally charged tuition to in-state students for 15 years. But he has not yet set a hearing to rule on damages. A full refund to the 200,000 current and past students affected by the tuition charges would cost the university about $450 million.
St. Louis County Circuit Judge Kenneth Romines said the university system had violated an 1889 state law that requires it to offer free tuition to all Missouri students over age 16.
At that time, Missouri was one of a dozen or so states to adopt such populist laws. Last year, Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, signed a measure overturning the law.
For years, the university collected only a nominal fee for in-state tuition. But in 1986, the university began charging students for the number of credit hours they took. The judge ruled that the university had violated the law since 1986.
Lawyers for university officials had argued that the university was not charging those students "tuition," but rather "educational fees." University-system officials and lawyers for the plaintiffs did not return phone calls seeking comment.
—Lisa Fine Goldstein
Pa. State Schools Chief Resigns for New Job
Charles B. Zogby, Pennsylvania's secretary of education, has stepped down from that post to become senior vice president of education and policy for K12 Inc.
The McLean, Va.-based company, founded by former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, provides curriculum and management services to cyber, or online, schools.
Zogby had helped craft education policy in Pennsylvania since 1995, when he was policy director to then-Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican. He became secretary of education in March 2001, and continued in that job under Gov. Mark S. Schweiker, also a Republican, after Mr. Ridge joined the Bush administration.
The incoming Democratic governor, Edward G. Rendell, will choose his own education secretary.
Mr. Zogby's accomplishments include helping design the Education Empowerment Act, which links academically struggling districts with more money and oversight; presiding over the development of higher academic standards for students and teachers; and boosting accountability for the state's cyber charter schools.
Mr. Zogby played a pivotal role in the state's 2001 takeover of the Philadelphia schools. He and Gov. Schweiker were criticized by some for their strong support of allowing private companies to manage 45 city schools.
— Catherine Gewertz
Illinois May Give Students More Time to Raise Scores
The Illinois state board of education has come up with a plan that would allow students to show incremental achievement gains on state tests in order for Illinois to comply with a new federal law.
At issue is compliance with the "adequate yearly progress" requirement of the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001, the 1-year-old federal law that, among other provisions, mandates annual mathematics and reading tests in grades 3-8 and requires states to show yearly student progress on state tests. Under the law, schools must have a 100 percent passing rate by 2014.
State board members had in previous discussions considered an initial 40 percent passing rate for reading and math tests and annual increases thereafter. But at a Dec. 18 meeting, board members came up with a proposal that would give students and teachers more time to adjust to the new federal requirements and integrate the Illinois Learning Standards into all classes.
Schools would be deemed to have made adequate yearly progress under the new plan if students reached a passing rate of 50 percent in 2005 and 60 percent in 2008, and then moved from 60 percent in 2010 to 100 percent four years later.
Members of the state board will meet again later this month to discuss the plan.
Pa. Law Requires Pledge Or National Anthem
A Pennsylvania law requiring the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance or the singing of the national anthem in public and private schools each day takes effect next month.
The measure, signed into law Dec. 9 by Gov. Mark S. Schweiker, a Republican, also requires that the American flag be displayed in classrooms.
Students in public or private schools may decline to recite the pledge or salute the flag, though school administrators will have to notify their parents.
Private and religious schools may be exempted from the law for religious reasons.
Vol. 22, Issue 16, Page 14