District News Roundup

July 31, 1991 4 min read

The Mecklenburg County (N.C.) Commission has approved an unusual and complex set of incentives to entice the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education to reform and streamline its district administration.

The commission last month offered the district $400,000 to hire additional special-education teachers if district officials would agree to submit to a management audit supervised by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. The district would then receive an additional $100,000 to hire a management consultant to conduct the study.

In addition, another $500,000 would be set aside, and the school district would receive one dollar of it for every two dollars saved through implementing the study’s recommendations.

The final element of the plan stipulates that district officials establish a set of achievement goals for the 1991-92 school year. If those goals are met, the district will receive another $1 million.

The district’s superintendent of schools, John A. Murphy, who began his job last month, said he would be “happy to initiate the process.”

Observers hailed the plan as a breakthrough in the movement to provide incentives and accountability for educational outcomes.

A federal judge has ruled that a Christian organization may continue to hold a summer youth program that includes Bible study at two Pittsburgh public schools.

U.S. District Judge William L. Standish last month granted a temporary injunction against Pittsburgh school officials, who in June revoked the permits for the privately funded “Fun with the Son” program after they learned of its religious content.

The program, sponsored by Youth Opportunities Unlimited, serves more than 600 disadvantaged young people with a program of remedial reading, arts and crafts, physical education, and Bible reading. The program opens with a morning prayer and includes the singing of Christian songs, said Michael Bowling, executive director of you.

Pittsburgh school officials argued that the program violates school-board policy prohibiting the use of school facilities for “religious or sectarian purpose.” The district had allowed the program to use city schools free of charge for 20 years, but officials said they only became aware of the program’s religious content this year.

Judge Standish ruled that the school district’s revocation of permits for the program “was based on the content of its speech” in violation of the constitutional right to free speech and free association.

The judge also said that the school system had been inconsistent in issuing use permits to private groups. He cited cases in which Jewish, Muslim, and other Christian groups had been allowed to use schools.

A group of parents and child advocates has filed suit against the Boston Public Schools, charging that Chapter 1 services had been unfairly denied to thousands of limited-English-proficient students.

The city’s Latino Parents Association and the Bilingual Master Parents Advisory Council filed suit in U.S. District Court last month alleging that, for a decade, the district has purposely excluded l.e.p. students from Chapter 1 programs.

During the 1990-91 school year, Chapter 1 services were provided to 25 percent of all students but only to 4.3 percent of l.e.p. students, the suit alleged. The plaintiffs have asked that the district set aside up to $25 million to provide such students with additional compensatory services.

The district, while denying deliberate discrimination, has submitted a plan to increase the numbers of l.e.p. students receiving Chapter 1 services and to hire more bilingual teachers for the program.

A curfew bill created as an exercise by a Honolulu high-school civics class was signed into state law this month by Gov. John Waihee of Hawaii.

Although the original bill, drafted by students at Kaimuki High school, was drastically altered, the objective of keeping teenagers off the city’s streets late at night remained intact. The curfew prohibits children under age 16 from public areas between 10 P.M. and 4 A.M. unless accompanied by an adult.

The new law recommends that violators of the curfew and their parents or guardians participate in family counseling or community service.

A spokesman for the Hawaii Department of Education said that, “as far as we know, this is the first time Hawaiian students have submitted and lobbied [for] a bill in the state government,” he said.

Honolulu joins more than a dozen major cities, including Dallas, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles, in implementing curfews for young people.

The District of Columbia Board of Education last month voted to require every school in the district to adopt either a dress code or a uniform policy.

The codes, which are to go into effect this fall, are to be developed by school administrators in cooperation with faculty, parents, and, at the secondary level, students.

Student compliance will be voluntary, and no student will be penalized for failing to obey a uniform policy, said Jay Silberman, a board member who oversaw the drafting of the policy.

About 32 elementary schools and one or two junior-high schools in the district already have uniform codes, Mr. Silberman said.

The mandate, which Mr. Silberman said has the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, is legally “appropriate and defensible,” he said.

The board took action, Mr. Silberman said, with an eye to trying “to instill some of the values that used to come from family and home and extended family.”

A version of this article appeared in the July 31, 1991 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup