News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Ohio Court Renews Charter Lawsuit
A unanimous panel for Ohio’s 10th District Court of Appeals in
Columbus has revived a legal challenge to the state’s charter
The suit was filed by the Coalition for Public Education, a group representing local and statewide teachers unions, and other education associations.
The three-judge panel ruled Aug. 24 that the group can claim that charter schools are not held to the same educational standards as traditional public schools. But the court rejected the argument that charter schools are not part of the state’s "system of common schools." It also dismissed the argument that local school boards must govern charter schools.
The case was sent back to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, where it had been dismissed last year. The state has not decided if it will appeal.
Meanwhile, the coalition launched a campaign last week to urge state lawmakers to halt the formation of new charter schools.
—Karla Scoon Reid
N.H. Governor Proposes Kindergarten Vouchers
Gov. Craig Benson of New Hampshire has proposed giving vouchers of up to $2, 000 to parents of kindergarten-age youngsters to help them send their children to public or private schools.
His proposal would provide communities with about $300 more per pupil in regular state aid. That way, a spokesman for the governor said, towns or districts could lose 20 percent of their kindergartners through the program and still break even financially.
Mr. Benson, a Republican who is running for re-election in November, unveiled his proposal Aug. 19 as the first of a two-part plan for improving education.
The Granite State is among a handful of states that do not require school jurisdictions to provide kindergarten. As a result, officials estimate that about 3,000 eligible children don’t attend kindergarten.
N.J. Governor Resigns; Championed Early Literacy
New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey has announced he will resign from office because he had an extramarital affair with a man.
Gov. McGreevey, who has made early-grades literacy a priority since taking office in January 2002, discussed in a brief press conference Aug. 12 that he is gay. He apologized for the pain his affair had caused his family.
The first-term Democratic governor, who is 47, said that being gay makes "little difference" to his leadership, but acknowledged that the circumstances surrounding his affair could compromise his ability to govern.
Gov. McGreevey’s resignation is effective Nov. 15, although some are urging him to step down sooner to enable a special election for his replacement. Without such an election, Senate President Richard J. Codey, a Democrat, will become governor until the end of the term in January 2006.
Denver School to Become First State-Converted Charter
Denver’s Cole Middle School will become the first public school in Colorado to be converted by the state into an independent charter school. The 366-student school, which has been under a state-ordered improvement plan for three years, failed to score high enough this year on the Colorado Student Assessment Program test to shake its "unsatisfactory" rating, a state official said.
Colorado law requires public schools with unsatisfactory ratings to undergo school improvement plans for three years. If a school doesn’t improve, the state can convert it to charter status. An independent seven-member committee will review proposals from individuals, universities, school districts, and companies interested in running the school.
The 72,000-student Denver system, which currently oversees the school, has not decided if it will continue to do so, a district spokeswoman said.
—Marianne D. Hurst
Teacher-Evaluation Plan Unlikely to Fly in Delaware
Delaware’s state board of education has approved a pilot program to link teacher accountability with student test scores. But that doesn’t mean it will happen.
On Aug. 18, the board approved the pilot program as part of the Delaware Performance Appraisal System II, a ratings system for teachers that state lawmakers passed four years ago.
But the state teachers’ union, an affiliate of the National Education Association, is opposed to linking student test scores with individual teacher performance and refuses to participate. And because teachers said through the union they won’t participate in the pilot program, the plan is in limbo until the board and the union break their stalemate.
It may take the legislature, which convenes in January, to break the deadlock, observers said.
—Michelle R. Davis
Primary Winner: June Atkinson won North Carolina’s Aug. 17 Democratic primary runoff for state superintendent of public instruction. With fewer than 3 percent of voters casting ballots, the former director of instructional services for the state education agency won 44,174 votes to 35,891 collected by her opponent, Stewart Marshall.
Ms. Atkinson will face Republican Bill Fletcher, a member of the Wake County school board, in November’s general election.
—Robert C. Johnston
Money for Teachers: Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has used his executive budget authority to add an additional $3 million to a pool of state and local resources that reimburses teachers for using personal money to buy school supplies. The aid follows the $3 million that the state legislature allocated to the program last year, but which was exhausted before many districts had applied. Teachers can get grants of up to $400 under the program.
David P. Driscoll, Massachusetts’ commissioner of education, has launched an inquiry to determine whether the private and public programs that educate children with severe disabilities allowed hundreds of those children to skip mandatory state assessments given during the last school year.
The state has not received the records of 1,427 of the 5,433 students enrolled in the programs, a state official confirmed. A report on the inquiry is expected by early next month.
Vol. 24, Issue 1, Page 30