News In Brief

October 11, 1989 4 min read

Facilities for the retarded, disabled, mentally ill, and juvenile criminals should not be considered as schools subject to the provisions of the federal asbestos-control law, the Colorado Department of Institutions has argued in a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The epa has maintained that the law, which requires schools to develop asbestos-control plans, train staff members, and keep records, should apply to such state institutions because they have classrooms.

But the Colorado agency disagrees, arguing that while the facilities have classrooms, their primary purpose is to provide care for their clients, not to educate them.

The department has spent $2 million over the last five years on asbestos abatement at its facilities, said Dwight Eisnach, a spokesman for the department.

Compliance with the federal law would cost $680,000 in start-up costs, plus an estimated $1 million per year to meet planning and record-keeping requirements, he said.

The Iowa Board of Education has offered a new proposal aimed at resolving the state’s long-running dispute over home schooling.

The board last month urged the legislature to act to give parents who educate their children at home or at church-affiliated schools the option of not using a state-certified teacher.

The legislative recommendation, approved by a 6-to-2 vote, calls for giving parents two choices. They would be allowed either to use a certified teacher at a home or church school, or to use a noncertified teacher but have their children tested annually to see if state assistance or certified instruction was needed.

A previous attempt at compromise died in the last session of the legislature as a result of House-Senate differences over the issue of standards for church-school teachers. The new proposal would cover both home and church schools.

The Arizona legislature has approved an additional $429,000 for drug education.

In a three-day session last month, lawmakers also agreed to establish a January state holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Observers say the legislature may hold another special session this fall to revamp the state’s taxation system, including parts of the education-finance system. A state task force has projected a $1-billion deficit by 2000 if current revenue and spending trends continue.

Illinois must reform its school-finance system or risk drastic court-ordered changes like those currently under way in Kentucky, state Superintendent of Education Robert Leininger has said.

Mr. Leininger, who was named to his post in August, said that his top priority will be to press for school funding reforms.

Like Kentucky, Illinois has major funding disparities between districts that could give rise to a lawsuit, Mr. Leininger warned a statewide meeting of school superintendents last month.

Members of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Human Resources have urged the legislature to approve a $26-million program to help children with severe emotional disturbances.

The plan, which would aid about 4,000 students, emphasizes community-based programs and in-home services.

Representative Tom Burch, co-chairman of the interim joint committee on health and welfare, has criticized the proposal because it would reach only an estimated 9 percent of the eligible population.

Ohio schools should begin next year to assign students by skill levels, rather than by age, the state education department has urged.

Schools in 12 districts in the state have been grouping students by skill levels over the past two years as part of a pilot program. The statewide effort will be implemented in 1990, according to a spokesman for the department.

Gov. George Deukmejian of California has signed a bill to require limits on the fat and cholesterol levels of school meals.

The state is the first in the nation to mandate such standards. (See Education Week, Sept. 20, 1989.)

Thirteen states have approved changes this year in the taxation of government workers’ pensions in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring similar treatment of state and federal retirees’ income, according to a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The study noted that 24 states previously had laws treating state workers’ retirement benefits more favorably than those of federal retirees--a situation barred by the Court’s decision in Davis v. Michigan. (See Education Week, April 26, 1989.)

Four states (New York, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) reacted to the decision by extending state retirees’ tax breaks to federal workers as well. Four others (Arizona, North Carolina, Oregon, and South Carolina) repealed existing tax breaks and raised pension levels, while five (Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Virginia) established new, limited income exclusions for all public pensioners.

Copies of “State Taxation of Public Pensions: The Impact of Davis v. Michigan” are available for $10 each, plus $1.50 for postage and handling, from the ncsl, Book Order Department, 1050 17th St., Suite 2100, Denver, Colo. 80265.

Vermont officials and business leaders have launched a $125,000 grant program to give schools start-up money to develop new approaches to education.

The program, announced last month by Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills, is part of an overall campaign calling for educational leaders to “rethink and reinvent” schools. Grants will be awarded to the three local educational systems judged to have the best restructuring proposals.

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