News in Brief

June 21, 1989 5 min read

Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa has signed legislation creating an autonomous, educator-dominated board to oversee the certification of teachers and school administrators.

The new 11-member panel, nine of whose members must be certified teachers or administrators, will assume duties now held by the education department’s board of educational examiners and its professional-practices commission. The board sets standards for certification, and the commission rules on complaints filed against teachers and administrators.

Governor Branstad has also signed a measure that will make retired teachers’ and state and local retirees’ pensions subject to the state income tax.

The bill will remain in effect for only one year and then be restudied. It was spurred by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling prohibiting states from taxing the benefits of retired federal workers but not those of state and local retirees.

The Massachusetts Senate, without using the word “taxes,” expressed support for additional rev4enues to fund increases in education and other services.

Setting the stage for a confrontation with the House, which had adopted a $12.3-billion budget that calls for no new taxes, the Senate this month approved a $12.5-billion version that members admitted was out of balance.

Preliminary votes also indicated that a majority of senators support additional increases in aid to cities and towns and equal-education grants to disadvantaged districts.

But rather than vote for new taxes to pay for these programs, the Senate adopted a preamble to its budget that states that “extraordinary measures” are needed to fund such increases. The Senate is constitutionally barred from proposing new taxes.

Meanwhile, the legislature also adopted a $394-million supplemental appropriation to keep the government afloat through the end of this month, when the current fiscal year ends. The additional funds were needed to avoid layoffs and cuts in services due to unexpectedly low revenues, officials said.

Oklahoma’s governor has used his line-item veto to kill a proposal that would have reduced the state’s new residential high school for mathematics from a two-year to a one-year institution.

Gov. Henry Bellmon said the provision infringed on the power of the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics’ board of trustees, said Wendy Johnson, a spokes8man for Mr. Bellmon.

Reducing the school to a one-year institution was part of an agreement between rural legislators, who objected to the school’s Oklahoma City location, and urban lawmakers.

The Governor approved the remainder of the bill, which includes $1.5 million for summer institutes at regional colleges and universities for gifted high-school students.

The Louisiana legislature has approved measures that exempt private-school students from having to pass standardized tests in order to receive a state diploma.

The two bills would reverse a policy on private-school testing adopted by the state board of elementary and secondary education.

The first measure would prohibit the board from requiring private schools to administer the tests, and the second would eliminate testing as a requirement for state certification.

Critics of the board’s policy said it violated private schools’ rights under the state constitution. The policy’s backers countered that private schools should be subject to such regulation because they accept state aid.

School-bus drivers in Connecticut will be subject to federal criminal background checks, under a bill approved by the legislature.

Passed in the wake of an accident that resulted in the death of a 7-year-old New Haven girl, the bill also requires districts to keep records of school-bus safety complaints, and mandates that the state inspect buses sold for private use.

In addition, it phases out the use of some 400 vans that do not meet federal standards, and requires that drivers of student-transportation vehicles other than school buses be trained by the department of motor vehicles.

The bill was proposed by the Connecticut School Transportation Association, which represents school-bus owners. The accident “increased awareness of the problems of school transportation and made it easier to get [the bill] through,” said Robin Leeds, the group’s executive director.

Existing taxes in Ohio are producing enough revenue to finance proposed school reforms, thus minimizing the need for a tax increase, Gov. Richard F. Celeste said last week.

At a press conference, the Governor said revised revenue estimates by a House-Senate conference committee indicate the state will take in $290 million more in taxes this year than previously anticipated.

The additional money, Mr. Celeste said, will cover the cost of a sweeping school-reform plan pending before the legislature.

Lawmakers have failed to embrace the Governor’s plan to increase income and corporate-franchise taxes by 1 percent to raise $1.8-billion for a new trust fund for education and children’s services.

Although Mr. Celeste will continue to seek adoption of his plan, a spokesman said, “it doesn’t look4overwhelmingly likely that it will happen.”

A 17-year-old high-school dropout from West Virginia has filed suit to force the state to return his drivers’ license.

The suit filed on June 7 is the first legal challenge to the state’s groundbreaking 1988 law that denies driving privileges to students who drop out before age 18. Texas and Florida approved similar laws this year.

Michael Means is among 620 West Virginia dropouts whose licenses have been revoked since October. Earlier this month, the state’s department of motor vehicles rejected an appeal by Mr. Means, who argues that his license should be returned because he is married and employed.

A student advisory committee in Connecticut, citing a survey of high-school students, has urged the state to implement voluntary efforts to achieve racial balance in schools.

Most students surveyed described their schools as racially imbalanced.

The 27-member panel was created in 1981 to provide students with a voice in state education policy. Its recommendations for desegregation are similar to those proposed in April by Commissioner of Education Gerald N. Tirozzi. A group of civil-rights lawyers, on the other hand, contend that voluntary approaches are ineffective, and have filed suit to force mandatory desegregation.

A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 1989 edition of Education Week as News in Brief