News in Brief

November 08, 1989 4 min read

Wisconsin school districts would receive $43 million to help repair and replace deteriorating schools, under a plan unveiled last week by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson.

The proposed funding would include $30 million from an expected $127-million surplus in the state’s biennial budget. Mr. Thompson said the aid would be distributed on an equalized basis, with the largest share of the money going to the districts with the lowest property values.

The deteriorating conditions of Wisconsin’s schools became an issue last year following a series of news4paper articles detailing the problem. A subsequent state inspection of buildings built before 1930 found at least 12 schools in “poor” condition and dozens more in need of repair.

“We think the availability of this money will be helpful in getting some referenda passed so that school districts can undertake some of this work,” said Thomas Fonfara, the Governor’s education aide.

The plan is expected to win quick approval from the legislature.

An Iowa legislative committee has rejected a proposal to revoke the driver’s licenses of dropouts, citing doubts about the effectiveness of similar programs in other states.

A House interim committee studying methods of lowering dropout rates voted 6-to-2 last month to recommend that the legislature not revoke the licenses of dropouts. But the legislature may still consider the proposal, which had been recommended by Gov. Terry E. Branstad.

While proponents of the measure said it would make young people reconsider their decision to quit school, critics charged that the policy is unproven and may encourage illegal driving among young dropouts who need to commute to work.

Smoking would be banned on all Wisconsin public-school premises, under a bill approved last month by the state Senate.

The measure, now pending before the Assembly education committee, would ban the use of all tobacco products on any public-school property, including parking lots, outdoor school grounds, and teachers’ lounges. Penalties for violating the ban would be determined by local school boards, according to Senator Joseph Czarnezki, a Democrat from Milwaukee and sponsor of the bill.

If the bill passes, Mr. Czarnezki said, Wisconsin would become only the second state in the nation, along with Kansas, to enact a statewide ban on smoking in public schools.

The Utah Education Association has mounted a legal challenge to a state tax-limitation measure that the union contends will restrict funding for public education.

James Campbell, president of the uea, filed the suit last month against Gov. Norman H. Bangerter and the state on behalf of his son and a state legislator.

The State Appropriations and Tax Limitation Act bars state spending from growing faster than population and inflation. The legislature passed the law this year after voters rejected a set of tax-limitation measures on the 1988 ballot.

Officials say the law could limit new education spending in fiscal 1991 to $100 million, while the uea has called for $186 million in new funds.

The suit challenges the law on the constitutional grounds that it gives the Governor a legislative function, since it requires the chief executive to declare a fiscal emergency before the legislature can appropriate money above the spending limit.

The legislature can exceed the limit with a two-thirds vote. The suit challenges that on behalf of one lawmaker, saying his vote is diminished by the two-thirds requirement.

A provision of New Mexico’s 1986 school-reform law that eliminated teacher tenure has been contested in state court by a special-education teacher who was dismissed after nine years of experience.

The National Education Association-New Mexico filed the suit along with Patricia Wahe, who was fired by the Fort Sumner school board.

Under the previous law, a tenured teacher had the right to a hearing with the local board if fired, plus the opportunity to appeal to the state board and then to the state court of appeals.

Under the new law, teachers with three years’ experience can request a list of reasons for termination, and appeal the decision to an independent arbiter. If the arbiter determines that a teacher was fired for “arbitrary or capricious” reasons, the local board must rehire him or her. But the arbiter’s decisions are final.

Per-pupil spending in North Carolina varied by as much as 56 percent among the state’s 140 public-school systems during the 1987-88 school year, according to a new collection of studies on state public-policy issues.

The state’s Basic Education Plan, which provides a minimum curriculum for every child, has done nothing to reduce funding disparities among school districts, according to North Carolina Focus, which was produced by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research.

Since 1973-74, the book notes, the state share of school budgets has stayed stable at 69 percent, while the share made up of federal money has been cut in half. Local contributions during the same period have increased from 19 percent to 23 percent.

Local per-pupil spending ranged from a high of $1,535 in Chapel Hill-Carrboro to a low of $287 in Fairmont, according to the book.

At least one school district, that of Reidsville, is considering a lawsuit against the state’s financing formula, according to Robert L. Watt III, the school board’s lawyer.

Ten states will work to develop an integrated strategy for addressing the needs of at-risk children and families, under a new project funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and conducted by the Council of State Policy and Planning Agencies, an affiliate of the National Governors’ Association.

The 18-month project will bring together top officials from the states to aid in developing a comprehensive approach to aiding the target groups.

The states selected for the project are Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, the Labor Department announced last month.

A version of this article appeared in the November 08, 1989 edition of Education Week as News in Brief