Current Events

March 01, 1993 3 min read

Guilt And Sorrow

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig, one of the nation’s preeminent educational leaders, was convicted in January on four felony conflict-of-interest charges. Specifically, Honig was found guilty of criminal conflict of interest in approving four state contracts worth $337,000 for work by his wife’s nonprofit parental-involvement program. With the conviction, Honig was suspended without pay from his job and, barring intervention from a higher court, will be removed from office when he is sentenced. School officials in California and elsewhere expressed sorrow that the energetic advocate for school reform and higher funding had been banished from the job he has commanded for the past decade. Long before the term “systemic reform” was coined, Honig emphasized a coherent set of policies aimed at improving student learning; they included high standards for students, curricular reform, and alternative assessments—all of which are now the focus of reformers nationwide.

National Disgrace

A new report by the venerable Children’s Defense Fund has concluded that the state of children in the United States is a “national disgrace.” In 1991, the document says, 14.3 million children were living in poverty, more than in any year since 1965. Contrary to popular stereotypes, the CDF adds, most of those poor children are white, have a parent who works, and live outside of large cities. Drawing on federal and other data, the report also notes that fewer than 60 percent of 2-year-olds are fully immunized in most states and that in 1991 there were six times as many cases of childhood measles and rubella and twice as many cases of whooping cough than in “the best year of the 1980s.” The annual report, which offers state-by-state data on key measures of child well-being, concludes that without comprehensive aid, millions of children will be left “unready for school; unsafe in their neighborhoods; and victims of needless illness, disability, and death.” Copies of the report, The State of America’s Children 1992: Leave No Child Behind, are available for $14.95 each from the CDF, 25 E St., N.W., Washington, DC 20001.

A Deadly Habit

Use of snuff and chewing tobacco is on the rise among teenagers and is likely to precipitate an epidemic of oral cancer in the next few decades, according to a new report by the U.S. Surgeon General’s office. The document, “Spit Tobacco and Youth,” says 20 percent of high school boys interviewed had used chewing tobacco in the preceding 30 days. It also states that twice as many 16- to 19-year-old boys use snuff as men age 50 and over. Use of these tobacco products is increasing, former Surgeon General Antonia Novello notes in the report, despite the fact that every state except Montana prohibits the sale of tobacco to minors. “This is not a safe alternative to cigarettes,” Novello says. “I am deeply concerned by the attempt of the spit-tobacco industry to downplay the health hazards posed by this type of tobacco.”

Standards Brochure

The U.S. Education Department has distributed more than 150,000 copies of a new brochure that outlines national efforts under way to set “world class” curriculum standards. The free brochure defines what the standards are, provides a brief history of the standards-setting efforts, and lists the addresses of the projects developing standards for mathematics, science, history, the arts, civics, geography, and English. Now in its second printing, the brochure can be obtained by writing to: Standards Brochure, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, 555 New Jersey Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20208.

A Right To Play?

A federal district judge has denied a claim by a high school basketball star in Pittsburgh that he has a constitutional right to play the sport. Danny Fortson, a junior at Shaler High School and an all-state center, filed the lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League after they declared him ineligible to play the sport until December 1993. The two groups ruled that Fortson was improperly lured to Shaler from Altoona High School. A high school that competes with Shaler had challenged the transfer. In his suit, Fortson argued that the two organizations violated his constitutional right to play basketball. He also alleged that he was discriminated against because he is African American. U.S. District Judge Donald Ziegler dismissed both charges, noting that a white player was also suspended last year for an improper transfer and that both organizations have legitimate interests in regulating high school recruiting.

A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 1993 edition of Teacher as Current Events