News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

March 19, 1997 2 min read

Mich. Judge Halts Engler Reorganization Plan

A Michigan judge has blocked Gov. John Englers attempt to re-route authority over the states education system.

The Republican governor issued two executive orders last December that would give the state superintendent control over many of duties that now fall under the elected state school board. Circuit Judge Carolyn Stell’s preliminary injunction this month halted the first of the two orders, which would have taken effect last week. But she withheld judgment on the second order, which is not scheduled to take effect until July 1.

The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the four Democrats on the eight-member board, who took action after the governor did not respond to the board’s formal request that he withdraw the orders.

The board’s vice president, Dorothy Beardmore, a Republican who did not participate in the suit, nevertheless called Mr. Engler’s executive orders “uncalled for.”

“Unless he does something else, we’re going to move ahead with business,” she said.

Ark. Law Eases Burden for Home-Schoolers

Parents of home-schooled students in Arkansas no longer have to contend with some of the costs and regulatory burdens of teaching their children at home, thanks to recent legislation signed by Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The new law eliminates the state’s previous requirement that such students take annual tests at their parents’ expense. Now, the students will be tested in grades 5, 7, and 10, as public school students are, and the state will pick up the $35 cost per student.

The number of home-schooled students in Arkansas has increased 11.5 percent over the past year, to about 6,400, while public school enrollment grew by less than 1 percent, according to state education department figures.

A spokeswoman for the Republican governor said he signed the legislation because home-schooled children test well and he felt they were being “unduly burdened” by the annual exams.

Ind. Is Again Considering Testing Program

With Indiana’s statewide testing program, it’s always something. In recent years, lawmakers have battled over funding, scoring, and test questions. Debate this year appears likely to center around whether ISTEP--Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress--scores should be used to evaluate the job performance of school principals.

Democratic Rep. Vernon G. Smith is backing legislation that would prohibit ISTEP scores from being included when rating a principal’s job performance.

The test is given each year to the state’s 3rd, 6th, 8th, and 10th graders to determine which students need help in certain subjects. It cannot be used to evaluate the job performance of teachers but is sometimes used to evaluate principals.

“I believe principals should be held accountable for achievement, but the ISTEP is a test for remediation,” Mr. Smith said. “You can’t mix apples with oranges.”

Mr. Smith’s bill has passed in the House and has been sent to the Senate, where it awaits a possible hearing in the education committee later this month.