News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

April 02, 2003 4 min read
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Fixed Tuition Rates Pass a Test in Illinois

Illinois college students would pay a fixed tuition rate for four years, under legislation that has passed the House.

Starting with the freshman class of 2004, the legislation would require the state’s nine public colleges to establish a set tuition that would remain unchanged for four years.

The tuition bill easily passed the House by a vote of 104-6 on March 19. The Senate is expected consider the measure this month.

Rep. Kevin C. Joyce, the Chicago Democrat who sponsored the bill, calls the measure “truth in tuition.” He said residents in his district have a high college-attendance rate but may not qualify for financial aid. For those parents, Mr. Joyce noted, knowing how much the total tuition bill will be is essential.

“They’ve saved $20,000 for their child to go to college, and then by the third year, [the money’s] already gone,” he said last week.

In response to critics who question limiting the budgeting flexibility of state colleges, the lawmaker said he’s simply asking Illinois colleges to craft four-year budget plans.

—Karla Scoon Reid

North Carolina Teachers Short on Time, Study Finds

North Carolina teachers are dissatisfied with their working conditions and are particularly unhappy that they don’t have more time to do their jobs well, according to preliminary results of a massive survey.

Some 42,000 educators—almost half the state’s teacher corps—completed the survey, which went to every licensed public school professional in the state, at the behest of Gov. Michael F. Easley.

Mr. Easley, a Democrat, has said he is concerned that North Carolina is losing too many teachers at a time when the state’s public schools need to fill some 10,000 teaching positions a year.

Educators gave the most positive responses to their school leaders. They were the least satisfied with the amount of time they had to spend on curriculum planning, classroom management, and individual students. Lack of sufficient time to collaborate with colleagues and to learn to be better teachers was also a problem.

Elementary school staff members tended to be more satisfied than educators in secondary schools. And teachers in smaller schools were generally more satisfied than their peers in larger ones.

A school designated as low-performing, or with higher proportions of students performing below grade level seemed to affect satisfaction levels negatively.

—Bess Keller

Florida Education Board Overrules Charter Rulings

For the first time, the Florida state school board last week overruled local school boards that had rejected two charter schools.

Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology in Hernando County, outside Tampa, and Round Lake Elementary School, in Lake County, both were granted charter status by the state board on March 18.

The Hernando County school was turned down by its local school board because of worries that Gulf Coast Academy’s financial plan wasn’t sound. But a state advisory board for charter schools disagreed, recommending that the state school board approve the charter.

The state board, an appointed body that officially took office in January, did just that.

In the second case, Round Lake Elementary will switch from regular public school to charter status. The local school board had denied the charter application for budget reasons.

State board member Bill Proctor questioned whether the body was wise to overrule local school boards, and suggested the state may now be accountable for those schools rather than the local districts.

—Alan Richard

Study: Choice Benefits Florida Special Ed. Students

A new report on Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities refutes arguments made by school choice opponents who say that choice options only benefit academically accomplished students and that private schools cannot effectively educate students with special needs.

“Lessons from Florida: School Choice Gives Increased Opportunities to Children with Special Needs,” is available from the Cato Institute. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The release of the report coincides with the introduction by U.S. Rep. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., of legislation that would encourage states to develop McKay-type programs.

The Florida scholarship program, now in its third year, provides state-funded scholarships worth an average of $5,000 to about 9,000 students with an array of learning disabilities and other needs.

David F. Salisbury, the director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute in Washington and the author of the report, points out that the number of students enrolled in the program has increased steadily, and 89 percent of the McKay scholarship students re-enrolled in their scholarship schools, indicating parent satisfaction.

The report credits the vouchers with encouraging private school participation and expansion, reducing class sizes in public schools, and giving parents a larger role in their children’s education.

—Marianne D. Hurst

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