News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

April 16, 2003 6 min read
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Test OK for Now, Mass. Judge Rules

A state judge has rejected a motion that would have stopped education officials in Massachusetts from denying diplomas to students who have not passed a state-mandated high school graduation exam.

Lawyers had sought the preliminary injunction on behalf of students in a class action that claims the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams have had a disparate impact on minority students, students who lack fluency in English, students with disabilities, and students attending vocational schools.

The class of 2003 is the first required to pass the MCAS in English and mathematics in order to graduate.

The April 4 decision by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Margot Bostsford allows the state to keep using the MCAS exams while the case continues. Lawyers for the students have vowed to appeal the ruling.

—John Gehring

Detroit Board Vote Could Be Pushed Up

Detroit residents may get to vote sooner than originally expected on whether to continue with an appointed school board or return to one that they elect.

The Michigan Senate easily passed a bill on April 3 that would move up the date for the election by more than a year. The measure now moves to the House.

Under the 1999 legislation that led to a virtual mayoral takeover of the Detroit school board, the city is to vote on the governance change in November of 2004.

Moving up the date drew bipartisan support in the GOP-controlled Senate, but Republicans and Democrats backed the bill for largely different reasons. Many of the Democrats, especially those from Detroit, sharply criticized the new board and its chief executive, Kenneth S. Burnley, as well as the state’s takeover legislation. They said the governance changes amounted to white state leaders’ imposition of their own views on black people in the state’s largest city.

Republicans advocated the earlier date by saying the controversy has become a distraction that Detroit school leaders could do better without.

The bill currently calls for a vote in August, but Sen. Wayne Kuipers, the chairman of the Senate education committee, said he would favor postponing the date another month or so to avoid a single-issue election. That change could take place in the House.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, has not yet taken a “formal position” on the matter, her spokeswoman said.

—Bess Keller

Home Schooling Parent Picked for Vermont Board

The governor of Vermont has appointed a home schooling parent to the state school board.

Gov. James H. Douglas, a Republican, named Susan Schill to the 10-member board last month. Advocates of home schooling believe her appointment makes Vermont the first state to name a parent to its board of education.

The governor said Ms. Schill’s perspective as a home schooler would benefit the panel, which is responsible for the education of all Vermonters.

“I can see both sides of it,” Ms. Schill agreed, adding that she was interested not only in home schooling, but other forms of school choice as well.

“We need to give children other options because they don’t all fit into traditional public schools as we know them,” she said.

Two percent to 3 percent of Vermont students are home-schooled, according to state figures.

Ms. Schill, of Belvidere, Vt., teaches her three children at home. An activist in the local Republican Party, she served on the Belvidere school board in 2000 and earlier on a committee that advised lawmakers on a law that allows home schoolers access to public school classes, and extracurricular activities.

—Bess Keller

Education Lottery Plan Headed to Okla. Voters

The Oklahoma legislature has narrowly approved a measure that would allow voters to decide if the state should establish a lottery to support education.

The special election on a lottery could be held as soon as this fall, according to a spokeswoman for Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat.

A staunch supporter of the referendum, the governor is expected to sign the legislation. The lottery could generate up to $300 million a year, according to estimates from the governor’s office.

A majority of the proceeds would go to prize money and lottery administration. Education—including K-12 schools, college scholarships, and teacher-retirement benefits—would share 30 percent of the proceeds for the first two years, and 35 percent every year thereafter, said Doug Folks, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.

The Oklahoma House approved the bill 52-49 on April 2, and the Senate passed it 26- 19 on March 26. A companion bill that would effectively prohibit the legislature from supplanting state education funding with lottery revenue has passed the Senate, but is awaiting a vote in the House.

—Michelle Galley

State Leaders Get ‘Tool Kit’ On Federal Education Law

The State Educational Technology Directors Association is recommending ways technology can help states address the goals of the federal “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001.

“States Helping States Implement No Child Left Behind” is available from the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

Included in the digital “tool kit” released last week at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington is a proposed set of “common data elements” on technology in schools that the group says each state should collect to provide a coherent national picture.

It also proposes ways that states can participate in “scientifically based research,” evaluation of effective teaching, and assessment of children’s technology literacy.

Another element is what one state official called “marching orders” to guide development of the National Education Technology Plan, which is required under the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The tool kit, which was introduced by John P. Bailey, the federal Education Department’s director of educational technology, is a result of close cooperation between state and federal officials on school technology. It grew out of a December workshop attended by the educational technology directors of 46 states, the District of Columbia, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, and officials of the Education Department, which paid for the project.

—Andrew Trotter

Report: Kentucky Aid Comes Up Short

Kentucky is not spending enough to educate its children adequately, according to a study by national school finance experts that has been presented to the state board of education.

The report calls on lawmakers to provide an additional $740 million a year on top of the state’s $3.9 billion for pre-K-12 funding, adding $873 to the state’s $6,020 annual per-pupil expenditure. The extra funds should provide preschool for children from low-income families, full-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes, tutors for students who are falling behind, and better professional development under the state’s 1990 education reform law, the report says.

It was written by school finance experts Allan Odden, the director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Mark Fermanich, a researcher at the university; and Lawrence O. Picus, an education professor at the University of Southern California.

Their report is the third study presented in the past two months that says Kentucky’s funding is inadequate to meet the requirements of the changes put in place more than a decade ago in the wake of a school finance decision by the state supreme court. The study was commissioned by the state department of education.

—Joetta L. Sack

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