News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Chairman to Leave North Carolina Board
Philip J. Kirk Jr., the chairman of the North Carolina state board of education, has announced that he will resign May 1 after more than five years in the post.
The 58-year-old North Carolina native is credited with helping to push the state's initiatives for holding schools accountable for student achievement, as well as efforts to raise teachers' salaries.
Mr. Kirk is the publisher of North Carolina Magazine and the president of North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry, the state's chamber of commerce. Critics sometimes have seen his position as a spokesman for that organization as conflicting with his role as a state official. He has denied such a conflict.
As a member of several education boards, Mr. Kirk intends to continue working to improve education.
"I am convinced that we will all remain committed to high standards and high expectations and that we will work together to be sure adequate resources ... are available to meet these goals," Mr. Kirk said in a statement.
The other 12 board members will pick a new chairman after consulting with the governor.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Texas Senate Approves Nominee to Lead Board
The Texas Senate has approved Republican Gov. Rick Perry's controversial nomination to head the 15-member state board of education.
The GOP-controlled Senate voted 24-6 in favor of Geraldine "Tincy" Miller on March 6, clearing the way for her to become the chairwoman of the often-divided board.
Ms. Miller, a Republican from a suburb of Dallas, has served on the board since 1984. During her nomination committee interview, she faced questions from senators about the management of the $17 billion Texas school trust fund, which aids school districts statewide.
Two years ago, a House committee and the state auditor released reports criticizing the board's management of the fund.
In addition, the Austin American-Statesman newspaper ran several editorials opposing Ms. Miller's nomination, alleging that she was involved with a political action committee that worked against the re-election of the former chairwoman of the state board, Grace Shore, who lost her bid for re-election last fall.
"The accusations were false," Ms. Miller said. As one of her top priorities, she added that she hopes to end the current practice of using outside consultants to manage the state's permanent school fund.
Audit: Mistaken Bonuses In N.C. Should be Repaid
The North Carolina education department should try to recover more than $775,000 in bonuses that were erroneously given to teachers, a state audit of the department's finances recommends. State education officials, though, disagree with the nonbinding recommendation.
Some 650 teachers in 43 schools were awarded up to $1,800 each in October 2001, after the state determined that the schools had met or exceeded expectations on state tests given in the 2000-01 school year.
Several months later, a review found that the wrong test data were used in identifying the schools eligible for bonuses. The review also found that 29 schools that had not been identified actually were eligible for the awards, which were later paid.
After consulting with the state budget office, education officials chose not to seek repayment of the erroneous bonuses.
That decision was outlined in the department's response to the state auditor's March 3 report. "It would be inappropriate," the response says, "to place undue financial hardship on these teachers for an error made by the state."
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Vol. 22, Issue 27, Page 16