News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Wis. Bars Two Schools From Voucher Program
Exercising new oversight powers, Wisconsin education officials have booted two schools out of the state’s program of private school vouchers in Milwaukee.
State schools Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster notified the schools July 12 of their removal from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which offers low- income city residents vouchers of up to $5,800 per year for tuition at participating secular or religious schools.
It is the first time that the state has ejected any school from the program, in which more than 100 schools take part. ("Milwaukee Voucher Schools to See Increased Accountability to State," March 24, 2004.)
The Mandella School of Science and Math, which a judge ordered closed this spring, was disqualified because it owes the state $330,000. The school’s founder faces criminal charges in connection with the alleged misuse of those funds. The other school, Alex’s Academic of Excellence, was expelled for repeated noncompliance with financial-reporting requirements, said Joseph Donovan, a spokesman for the state education department.
New State Chiefs Named For Minnesota, Alabama
Two states got new top education leaders this month, while the chief in a third state is leaving before his term is up.
In Minnesota last week, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty named state Rep. Alice Seagren as the new education commissioner.
Ms. Seagren, a Republican who chaired the House Committee on Education Finance, has served as a legislator since 1992 and replaces Cheri Pierson Yecke. ("Minn. Senate Democrats Dump Yecke as Education Chief," May 26, 2004.)
Meanwhile, Joseph B. Morton, the former second-in-command at the Alabama education department, has been named the state’s superintendent of schools. Mr. Morton, 58, was appointed July 13 by the state board of education. He had been the acting superintendent since January.
And in North Carolina, schools chief Michael E. Ward will step down from the post he’s held for nearly eight years on Aug. 31. He is moving to Jackson, Miss., where his wife, the Rev. Hope Morgan Ward, was recently appointed as a bishop in the United Methodist Church.
Gov. Michael F. Easley, a Democrat, is expected to appoint a replacement to complete the term, which ends in December.
—Darcia Harris Bowman, Erik W. Robelen, & Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Texas State School Board Backs Four Years of Science
The Texas state board of education has passed a plan to require most high school students to take four years of science to graduate.
Board members approved the plan on an 8-7 vote July 16. The policy would apply to students entering 9th grade in fall 2007. It was approved on the condition that the state legislature underwrite the changes, which one state estimate places at $200 million just for new laboratories, and that the board review the funding plan.
The requirement would affect the 58 percent of high school students in the state’s two most rigorous curricular routes who now must take three years of science. Students in a third, less rigorous path to graduation must take two years of science—a policy that will not change under the board’s plan.
- The Florida Supreme Court, in a 5-2 ruling July 15, rejected a proposed Nov. 2 ballot item asking voters to double the size of the property-tax exemption for homeowners, derailing an effort that school officials argued would have eviscerated school district budgets. The Florida School Boards Association opposed the measure, estimating it would have cost districts more than $800 million in yearly revenue.
- The New Hampshire Supreme Court announced July 14 that it had rejected one of two lawsuits filed this summer to challenge the state’s new school funding law. The case, filed by the cities of Manchester and Rochester, must first undergo "fact finding" in a lower court, the high court ruled. Both lawsuits are expected to be heard this summer.
- A group of out-of-state students at three Kansas universities filed a lawsuit July 19 challenging a new state law that lets undocumented immigrants in Kansas receive in-state tuition. The suit is backed by the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform.
—Catherine A. Carroll
Vol. 23, Issue 43, Page 19