News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
N.H. Administrators Say 'No Child' Costs Rising
New Hampshire school administrators say that the costs of complying with the federal No Child Left Behind Act will be much higher than they had previously predicted.
According to an estimate released last month by the New Hampshire School Administrators Association, school districts will have to spend $1,022 for every $100 in new federal money they receive through the program. That figure is about one-third higher than a similar estimate made by the group in November 2002.
Association officials said the numbers were revised when federal data became available from the 2000 to 2002 fiscal years.
Under the federal law, the group’s report says, "it is increasingly becoming clear that local and state expenditures are being increased, negative impacts are developing for children and citizens, and the federal government is at best weakening (if not defaulting) on it promise to fully fund this initiative."
But Charles M. Arlinghaus, the executive director of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a think tank in Concord, N.H., said the administrators’ latest estimates were based on "radical assumptions." For instance, he said, the report predicts the law will prompt "massive increases in the number of special education kids, when that would be a violation of state and federal law."
Arizona Governor Unveils Early-Education Fund
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano has unveiled a new fund to raise private money for the improvement of early-childhood education.
One of the driving forces behind the effort, which was announced on March 18, is the fact that many low-income working families struggle with child-care costs, which range between $4,250 and $7,500 per child annually, according to the governor’s office.
The first-year goal of the fund is to raise $5 million. Grants from the account will be used to support community programs for improving the quality and accessibility of early-childhood education.
Gov. Napolitano will appoint a 15-person advisory panel to oversee the fund, which is already taking donations, and devise strategies for raising money. An independent panel of early-childhood experts from across the state will review grant applications and submit funding recommendations to the advisory board, a spokesman for the governor’s office said.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
Washington State Teachers Aim to Overturn Charter Law
The Washington Education Association plans a campaign to roll back the state’s new charter school law by placing a voter initiative on the ballot in November.
Under the law adopted by the legislature last month, up to 45 charter schools could be established statewide over the next six years. ("Wash. Charter Backers Near Finish Line, Finally," March 17, 2004.)
The union maintains that the charter schools will drain funding from regular public schools.
An affiliate of the National Education Association, the 76,000-member union voted to launch the ballot drive at its annual meeting March 26.
Supporters have until June 9 to collect the 98,867 signatures required to put a voter initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Test-Scoring Problems Persist for Connecticut
Having already asked Connecticut’s testing contractor to rescore student answers on the state assessment, education officials in Connecticut say portions of the tests must be scored a third time.
Commissioner of Education Betty J. Sternberg announced in January that state test results due back to schools by then would not be available until this spring because of concerns about how the exams were scored by the contractor, CTB/McGraw Hill. ("Connecticut Tests Delayed by Scoring Glitches," Feb. 11, 2004.)
At issue are the scores given for written answers on the Connecticut Mastery Tests, which the state uses to gauge student performance in mathematics and reading in grades 4, 6, and 8. Officials of the state department of education said the initial results did not jibe with those of earlier versions of the same tests.
The agency now says some of those problems persist on portions of the tests’ reading sections, even after CTB/McGraw Hill rescored them.
A spokeswoman for the Monterey, Calif.-based testing company said last week that they were willing to work out any remaining glitches with the state. She also noted this is the first year the company has handled the tests for Connecticut.
Michigan Ruling May Slow Anti-Affirmative Action Drive
A Michigan judge’s ruling may slow a petition drive aimed at putting an end to affirmative action in the state’s public universities through a statewide ballot measure.
Ingham County Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield ruled on March 25 that the petition should not have been released by the Board of State Canvassers because the proposed ballot measure did not specify that it would change existing provisions of the state constitution.
The proposal seeks to prohibit state agencies, including universities, from giving preferential treatment based on characteristics such as race or sex.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided last June that the University of Michigan Law School could continue to consider such factors in admissions, but that the undergraduate school’s affirmative action policy was too formulaic to be legal. ("Department Pushes Diversity Without Preferences," this issue.)
To put the measure on the November ballot, the petition must have some 317,500 signatures by July 6.
The state attorney general’s office, which represents the Board of State Canvassers, said last week that it would appeal the ruling.
NCSL Sets Up Task Force To Study Federal School Law
A bipartisan group of state legislators from across the country will examine the federal No Child Left Behind Act during the coming months and develop recommendations for ensuring the law’s effectiveness while making it easier to administer.
Nearly two dozen lawmakers have been named to the task force, and more participants are being confirmed, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures, which is coordinating the effort.
The panel’s goals will include: determining how the federal law is affecting public education, identifying challenges for state legislatures in implementing the law, and ensuring that federal funding is commensurate with the requirements of the law.
The task force expects to release recommendations in the fall.
—Robert C. Johnston
Vol. 23, Issue 30, Page 20