News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

October 29, 1997 2 min read

Judge Says Hiring Policy Violates Law

A New York state judge has ordered a Long Island school district to stop requiring its new teachers to give up their eligibility for tenure as a condition of being hired. The unorthodox practice violates state law, he ruled.

The ruling this month by lower-court Justice John S. Lockman invalidated a policy instituted last year by the 10,300-student Middle Country district about 60 miles east of New York City.

The district policy required new staff members to agree to work under renewable contracts and forgo tenure. Another judge overturned a similar policy in the nearby East Islip school system last spring in a decision that is under appeal.

Under state law, teachers get tenure when they are hired for a fourth year in the same district. Justice Lockman said the Middle Country school board’s policy “exhibits a lack of regard for the system of laws by which we are governed, and creates a new creature of logic, waiver by fiat.”

The district’s superintendent, Cecil A. Ramsey, said last week the school board had not yet decided whether to appeal.

Mass. Schools To Share $15 Million

School districts throughout Massachusetts are receiving a total of $15 million in one-time grants aimed at filling financial “potholes.”

The money comes from the state’s 3-year-old foundation-reserve program, through which the legislature sets aside funds to meet urgent school budget needs. State Commissioner of Education Robert V. Antonucci announced last week that the grants for fiscal 1998 were awarded to 96 districts, out of more than 150 applications.

The money supplements the $2.3 billion the state doles out to districts according to a school funding formula.

The so-called pothole program this year gave preference to districts that have seen substantial enrollment increases, receive little state aid through the funding formula, and have relatively high local tax burdens.

Fla. School Construction Plan Released

It’s official: Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles has called a special legislative session on school construction for next month.

The Democratic governor announced last week that he will call both houses of the legislature to the state capital in Tallahassee from Nov. 3 through 7 to address “critical problems in overcrowding, major renovations and repair, and fiscal capacity.”

Overcrowding in Florida schools has been in the spotlight since last year. Some officials estimate that the state has up to an $11.1 billion school construction backlog. The crowding stems from the more than 600,000 students who have poured into the state’s schools over the past 10 years.

Legislation passed this year on the issue has “proven to be unworkable,” Mr. Chiles said in an Oct. 22 proclamation. (“Florida’s School-Crowding Woes Offer Fodder for Ongoing Debate,” Sept. 24, 1997.)

Last week, the governor called for a $1.8 billion bond issue--supported by lottery profits--for school construction and renovation; authority for school boards to levy an additional half-cent, local-option tax; and $50 million for school facilities in rural counties.