News in Brief

January 11, 1989 5 min read

Idaho should stop funding high schools with fewer than 60 students and junior-senior high schools with fewer than 80, a school-finance task force appointed by the state superintendent has advised the state board of education.

But a second panel, also formed by the state chief, has recommended that if the sparsely populated state decides to pursue district consolidation, it should use less coercive means.

A spokesman for Superintendent Jerry L. Evans said he may ask the legislature to adopt the first group’s proposal. Education officials predict consolidation will be a top issue in this year’s legislative session, which begins Jan. 9.

Under the state-aid task force’s plan, schools with enrollments below the recommended limits would have to demonstrate that they were “remote and necessary” in order to continue receiving state funds.

In contrast, the second study group suggested that the state provide small districts with funds to investigate consolidation options. It also urged that newly consolidated districts be given at least the same amount of aid that the formerly separate districts would have received.

North Dakota lawmakers, meanwhile, have been asked to endorse a plan developed by two superintendents that calls for the merger of 280 rural districts into 32 “superdistricts.”

The proposal, drafted by Superintendents Julian Bjornson of Grafton and Larry Nudell of Harvey, would make local boards in affected districts advisory bodies. The 32 superdistrict boards would include a representative from each merged district and would employ only one superintendent.

Wayne G. Sanstead, the state school superintendent, said the plan would probably face heavy opposition in the legislature. He added, however, that consolidation will be “one of the big items in the education committee” this year.

Kentucky lawmakers passed legislation last month establishing a state lottery, but rejected Gov. Wallace G. Wilkinson’s proposal to earmark some of its profits for early-childhood-education programs.

The legislature passed the bill creating the lottery on Dec. 15 at the end of a 13-day special session. The game had been authorized by voters in November.

Mr. Wilkinson had proposed that first-year lottery revenues be used to fund early-childhood initiatives, programs for senior citizens, and a one-time bonus for Vietnam veterans. The legislature authorized the payments to veterans but decided to postpone all other funding decisions until its next regular session in 1990.

Lawmakers also voted to require Senate approval of the Governor’s appointees to the new lottery commission.

A West Virginia law that allows legislators to review and to accept, reject, or modify policies of the state board of education is unconstitutional, the state supreme court has ruled.

In a unanimous decision, the court held in December that the state constitution gives the board4the responsibility for setting education policy, and that “any statutory provision that interferes with that role is unconstitutional.”

A far-ranging school-reform measure passed last year established a legislative education-oversight committee authorized to examine all board actions. The board successfully argued that the creation of the new panel violated the principle of separation of powers.

The head of a financially troubled Kentucky school district has urged the local school board to ask the state to assume control of the system’s fiscal affairs.

The Floyd County board was expected to vote on Superintendent Ron Hager’s recommendation last week. The district has a $300,000 deficit.

The move follows the release last month of a state audit that found that county students have spent an unusually large amount of time raising funds for the district.

The audit, which was requested by Mr. Hager shortly after he took the Floyd County job last summer, revealed that students raised more than $1.7 million, or $193 per student, during the 1986-87 school year, primarily through bake sales, magazine sales, and car washes. The money was used “to replace the furnaces, pave driveways, pay officials at athletic events, and pay for school utilities,” it stated.

“A closer look should be made to make sure students are not exploited, that they are not asked to spend more time raising funds than concentrating on their studies,” said the state school superintendent, John Brock, in releasing the report.

State education officials assumed control of another district’s financial affairs earlier this year.

The New Hampshire Board of Education has voted to require public schools to provide character and citizenship education.

A spokesman said the board was developing a K-12 curriculum on “democratic values,” including self-discipline, honesty, fairness, and responsibility to the community. The new rule will take effect in September 1990.

The board plans to contract with Boston University’s Center for Advancement of Ethics and Character to provide districts with technical assistance and teacher training.

The Colorado Association of School Boards plans to campaign against legislative efforts to create a statewide parental-choice program.

“If an open-enrollment plan is mandated, it is just going to make planning very difficult,” said Lauren Kingsbury, the association’s legal counsel.

Last year, the House killed a Senate-approved bill that would have allowed the state’s 550,000 public-school students to transfer to any school in the state.

Representative Jeanne Faatz, the Denver Republican who sponsored the measure, said the version she plans to introduce this year has been revised to attract more political support. The new bill would make district participation voluntary, rather than mandatory.

“My goal is to try to match better the student with his educational surroundings,” she said. “Education does not exist for the convenience of administrators.”

Mississippi school districts that consistently overspend8el-98ltheir budgets or fail to meet state academic standards would be placed in state “receivership,” under a proposal by the state board.

The board has asked the legislature to approve a bill authorizing the state to take over some functions of substandard school systems.

Under its plan, the budgets of financially unstable districts would be placed in an escrow account under state control.

In addition, parents whose children attend schools in districts deemed academically deficient would be allowed to transfer their children to neighboring districts.

Michigan’s pioneering prepaid college-tuition program attracted $265 million in investments in its first year, according to Gov. James J. Blanchard.

Parents, grandparents, guardians, and other benefactors had signed up 40,344 children for the Michigan Education Trust by the Nov. 30 deadline, Mr. Blanchard said at a recent press conference. The program has been copied in eight other states.

A version of this article appeared in the January 11, 1989 edition of Education Week as News in Brief