News in Brief

January 10, 1990 6 min read

In a step toward a legal challenge to California’s recently adopted curricular framework for science, supporters of creationism have asked the state’s office of administrative law to determine whether the framework is a “regulation” binding on schools.

“Either the framework is binding and as a regulation was illegally adopted,” said Kelly Segraves, director of the Creation Science Research Center, “or it is of no effect and may not be used as the binding criteria for textbook adoption or the teaching of science in the classroom.”

Citing a recent state-court ruling in a related case, Mr. Segraves charged that the board may have violated the state’s Administrative Procedure Act in adopting the framework. That law requires state agencies to submit regulations to the administrative-law office for comment.

In November, Superior Court Judge James L. Long ruled that the board had failed to comply with the act in issuing guidelines for reading texts. The board, claiming it has the constitutional authority to adopt textbooks, is appealing the ruling. (See Education Week, Nov. 29, 1989.)

The administrative-law office is expected to rule on the issue by March. But Steven Sheldon, a spokesman for the Traditional Values Coalition, a group of churches that also opposes the framework, said critics may not wait for the ruling before filing a lawsuit.

Mr. Sheldon also argued that the the curriculum guidelines violate a state policy barring schools from teaching science as “dogma.”

The framework, approved by the board in November, attracted national attention with its emphasis on evolution as a key theme of science instruction.

The board acted after deleting passages the document’s authors had included to explain the emphasis on evolution. But creationism supporters contended that the dele4tions were merely “cosmetic changes.”

A federal appeals court has ruled that officials of the Minnesota Federation of Teachers--although not the union itself--may pursue a challenge to a state law that allows public-school funds to go to religiously affiliated colleges and universities.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit said last month that Richard Mans, former president of the m.f.t., had standing to file the lawsuit as a taxpayer, but that the organization could prove no injury from the law.

The ruling reactivates a lawsuit filed two years ago against state education officials and private colleges that accept students under the postsecondary-enrollment-options program. A lower court had dismissed the suit, saying that neither Mr. Mans nor the m.f.t. had standing to bring the case.

The law, one of the state’s widely touted choice programs, allows high-school juniors and seniors to take nonsectarian courses for high-school credit at both public and private colleges and universities, with each student’s share of state aid going to the institution where he or she is enrolled.

The lawsuit charges that the law violates state and federal constitutional provisions barring state establishment of religion.

Arkansas officials are rushing to redraw the state’s legislative boundaries by next week in response to a ruling by a federal appeals court that the current boundaries discriminate against black voters.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit found last month that the state violated the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 when it reapportioned legislative boundaries after the 1980 census and created only six predominantly black districts out of a possible 16.

Although the appeals court or8dered the state to redraw the boundaries before holding another election, it did not rule on the separate issue of requiring state officials to submit all future election changes to the U.S. Justice Department for approval--as several other Southern states are required to do.

The challenge was filed last January by 17 black voters, with the assistance of the naacp Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Procedural changes are needed in Connecticut’s binding-arbitration law for settling teacher-contract disputes, a legislative committee has recommended.

Rejecting a change sought by many local governments in the state, however, the panel did not recommend giving municipalities the power to reject arbitrators’ decisions.

Critics of the binding-arbitration law argue that it has driven up the cost of teacher salaries in the state, where educational pay levels are among the highest in the nation. (See Education Week, Oct. 11, 1989.)

The recommendations approved by the committee last month include suggestions that the state: prepare annual reports on the outcomes of contract negotiations; establish a process for annually reviewing the performance of arbitrators; and provide an opportunity during arbitration hearings for a representative of the municipality to testify about the city’s ability to pay for the contract.

Meanwhile, a new report by Barry Bluestone, a professor of political economics at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, has concluded that legislation increasing teachers’ salaries--together with the state’s high per-capita income--are responsible for the growth in Connecticut teachers’ earnings.

Nebraska’s state government should fund a larger share of education costs in order to provide local property-tax relief, the Nebraska School Financing Review Commission has proposed.

Under the commission’s plan, state aid would rise from about 25 percent to 45 percent of the funds received by Nebraska schools.

The panel said its proposal would call for an additional $230 million in state aid, but would not result in an overall tax increase.

Wisconsin school districts will have an easier time transferring small parcels of land, under legislation signed last month by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson.

The bill, which was modified by Mr. Thompson’s vetoes, creates a three-member panel to approve all such transfers in the state. Previously, school districts could not transfer land parcels without getting approval from the state board of education and holding a referendum.

Some Iowa legislators have accused Gov. Terry E. Branstad of financial mismanagement for failing to make scheduled state-aid payments to public schools.

School districts received only half of the $92 million in aid due to be given out last month, and the partial payment was made a week late.

Patrick D. Cavanaugh, director of the state’s department of manage4ment, said the delay was caused by an unexpected drop in state revenues during the last week of November.

But Representative Robert C. Arnould, leader of the Democratic majority in the House, said the Republican Governor could have avoided the delay by raising cash through the bonding authority given him by the legislature in 1985.

Another Democrat, Senator Larry G. Murphy, predicted the delay would force districts to borrow money to pay bills and thus cost them thousands of dollars in interest.

A statewide panel has been named to study the future of precollegiate education in Wisconsin.

The formation of the “Commission on Schools for the 21st Century” was announced jointly last month by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson and Superintendent of Public Instruction Herbert J. Grover. Ody J. Fish, a former member of the state board of regents, will head the new commission.

A version of this article appeared in the January 10, 1990 edition of Education Week as News in Brief