Education

News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

October 29, 2003 2 min read
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House Seeks to Boost Teacher Ed. Faculties

The House of Representatives last week approved by voice vote legislation that would give priority access to a federal fellowship program to graduate students studying to become professors in those K-12 teacher-training institutions in high need of faculty.

The Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need program, financed at roughly $31 million in fiscal 2003, awards fellowships to graduate students working in areas deemed to be of national need. Those fellowships provide stipends of up to $21,500 to recipients.

The proposed Graduate Opportunities in Higher Education Act would give priority to graduate students in postbaccalaureate programs who seek to train future teachers in math, science, special education, and English-language acquisition subjects—areas in which teacher colleges are experiencing the greatest faculty shortage, said Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., the bill’s sponsor.

The House also approved by voice vote the International Studies in Higher Education Act. That bill, also sponsored by Rep. Hoekstra, would establish an independent advisory board to report to Congress and the Department of Education on a broad range of foreign-studies programs on college campuses. Some of those programs, including ones that offer seminars to K-12 teachers, have been accused of pushing anti-American agendas on students. (“Foreign-Studies Classes Could Face More Scrutiny,” Oct. 15, 2003.)

The Senate has not yet taken action on either piece of legislation.

—Sean Cavanagh

High Court Refuses Agency-Fees Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to review a California case challenging the procedures used by teachers’ unions to collect dues from public school employees who are not members of the unions.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, unanimously held last April that small local unions do not have to commission formal audits to meet requirements for verifying that the fees nonmembers must pay are not spent on political activities.

The appeals panel also ruled that school officials who withhold union fees from employees’ wages are not liable for deficiencies in unions’ financial-disclosure procedures.

A group of teachers from eight California districts had filed a class action in federal court in 2000 against the California Teachers Association and eight of its local affiliates, as well as the superintendents of the districts where the teachers worked.

The plaintiffs had asked the high court to overturn the 9th Circuit court’s ruling. On Oct. 20, the justices announced without comment that they would not take up Sheffield v. Aceves (Case No. 03-89).

The case is one of a succession of related lawsuits filed around the country since the Supreme Court issued a key 1986 decision in a case involving the Chicago Teachers Union.

—Caroline Hendrie

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