News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

April 30, 2003 | Corrected: February 23, 2019 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Corrected: A brief in this issue misstates the political party of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois. He is a Democrat.

Snow-Day Confusion Leads to Mass. Retest

Snow day may seem like a familiar topic to most students in the North, but some school districts in Massachusetts have not had snow days in several years, and children from warmer regions don’t have a lot to say about the white, fluffy stuff.

Why does that matter? Well, a question on the writing portion of a Massachusetts state exam asking students to describe what they did during a day off from school because of snow left many 4th graders confused and uncertain about how to respond.

After receiving a handful of complaints from district officials about the question, the Massachusetts Department of Education decided to give pupils a chance to take the test again on May 8, according to Heidi Perlman, a spokeswoman for the state education commissioner. That retest would usually be reserved for students absent during the regular test.

Ms. Perlman said that all Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System questions go through a rigorous review process, and that “no red flags” were raised about the snow- day question.

—John Gehring

Illinois Governor Signs Bill For New Chicago Charters

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois has signed legislation that doubles the number of charter schools permitted in Chicago. The district, which has the current maximum of 15 charter schools, will now be allowed to raise that total to 30.

The measure, signed by the Republican governor April 16, also returns to Chicago teachers some of the bargaining powers they had lost when the legislature approved an education law in 1995 intended to improve Chicago schools by giving more power over district governance to the city’s mayor.

The new law, passed unanimously by the House and the Senate, says district teachers can now weigh in on such issues as layoffs, class size, and privatization.

Tom Schafer, a spokesman for the governor, said that teachers’ rights to negotiate on certain issues had been taken away in 1995 to give the Chicago school board more flexibility in restructuring the 437,000- student school system. “At the time, the school system was in trouble,” he said.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Substance Abuse Declines In Hawaii, State Finds

Eleven percent of Hawaii students in grades 6-12 need treatment for substance abuse, according to a newly released study of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use conducted by the state department of health.

The Hawaii Department of Health posts the “2002 Hawaii Student Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use Study.” (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

That rate, however, has declined from 16 percent in 1998, and 13 percent in 2000, according to the report, which is based on a survey of roughly 28,000 students in those grades at 181 public schools and 34 private schools in the state. The anonymous survey began in 1987.

In general, the study found that the percentages of students who use illicit drugs have stabilized or fallen in recent years. The survey, which was administered last year, also found declines in tobacco and alcohol use, but showed an increase in the percentages of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders who said they had tried the drug Ecstasy.

—Linda Jacobson

Nebraska Unveils Pilot For Future Health Workers

Nebraska’s Grand Island Senior High School opened a medical-training program last week that serves as a state pilot project for future career-preparation programs.

The three-year program, which includes a new training center, will prepare students to become medical-support personnel, as well as jump-start their college studies in medicine, said Stephen Joel, the superintendent of the 7,500-student Grand Island district, which includes Grand Island High and is about 90 miles west of Lincoln.

Students will take classes in the Virtual Medical Center, which contains an X-ray viewing center, medical equipment, hospital beds, and a dentist’s office.

“There’s a crying need for health- care workers, and this program meets that need,” said state Commissioner of Education Douglas D. Christensen. “We’ve been advocating this career-cluster idea to reinvigorate and restructure vocational education. Grand Island took this idea and ran with it.”

About 200 students have preregistered for the fall semester of the 2003-04 school year, school officials said.

—Rhea R. Borja

Spending Gap Widens, Missouri State Audit Finds

Spending on students in rich and poor school districts in Missouri has grown less equitable than before the state funding formula was rewritten 10 years ago, a state audit report says.

The audit, released April 16, found the gap between the highest and lowest district’s per-pupil spending has risen to $9,188 last year from $6,531 in 1993. The study compares spending in all of the state’s districts. In 1993, the highest district’s per-pupil spending was $8,749 and the lowest was $2,218. Then last year, the highest district spent $13,748 and the lowest spent $4,560.

The report also says legislative proposals to remove gambling proceeds from the state funding formula would only worsen the gap. This year, Missouri spent more than $1.6 billion through the complex funding formula that covers the cost for the state’s 890,200 students in 524 public school districts. The audit recommends that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education report annually to the legislature on six nationally recognized measures of school finance equity.

—Lisa Goldstein

Ohio Charter Schools Win Partial Dismissal of Suit

Charter schools in Ohio won a legal victory last week when a judge dismissed part of a lawsuit filed by a coalition of education groups two years ago.

The plaintiffs argue that charter schools, or “community schools” in Ohio, violate the state constitution because they are not held to the same standards as regular public schools, usurp citizens’ right to govern public schools through a local school board, and are financed by local property taxes. The suit was brought by 10 groups, including the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the Ohio School Boards Association.

In his April 21 ruling, Judge Patrick McGrath of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court wrote that the state has the right to “create and modify school districts,” and that charter schools are funded only with state dollars.

The plaintiffs’ other contentions, which do not question the constitutionality of such schools, are still pending. A representative for the plaintiffs said that they would most likely appeal the decision.

—Michelle Galley

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP