News in Brief

March 07, 1990 4 min read

The Illinois Board of Education has recommended that a required parental-choice plan for the Chicago schools be developed locally, rather than through a state mandate.

A landmark 1988 law reforming the city’s school system directed the district to begin next year to phase in a parental-choice plan.

The law also ordered the state board to make recommendations to the legislature on how choice could be implemented in Chicago.

In a recent memo to the board, however, officials of the state education department noted that panel members were expected to approve soon a resolution opposing all state-mandated choice plans. “It would be inappropriate to specify any of the countless programs which could serve as open-enrollment incentives as more suitable for the Chicago schools to establish than others,” the memo argued.

The board agreed with that assessment and, in its resolution, sounded themes frequently put forward by critics of parental choice.

“Achieving an acceptable level of educational quality in all public schools in Chicago ... is an essential condition for establishing a viable open-enrollment plan and should be treated as a matter of the highest priority,” the board said. “Improving basic educational programs and services across the board should take precedence over the creation or expansion of special programs.”

Some supporters of the reform law are wary of the choice provision, arguing that it would add confusion to an already complex process. But others are pushing an expansive choice plan that would allow Chicago students to attend private schools at state expense.

The South Dakota legislature has given final approval to a school-reform bill providing an additional $16.8 million to school districts.

As proposed by Gov. George S. Mickelson, the measure includes $9.7 million to increase by about $1,100 each the salaries of South Dakota’s teachers, who currently are the lowest paid in the nation.

The legislation, approved late last month, also includes additional spending for special and vocational education.

The bill allows high-school juniors and seniors to receive credit for courses taken at colleges and universities, but requires those who do to pay for the courses themselves. (See Education Week, Feb. 28, 1990.)

South Dakota lawmakers have also approved a ban on the use of corporal punishment in schools.

The bill would allow educators to use physical force, however, to control unruly students.

The Senate version of the measure had allowed only the use of “physical restraint.” But House members successfully argued in a conference committee that that wording would not give teachers authority to bodily remove unruly students from the classroom. So lawmakers adopted the House version, which allowed for the use of force.

Teachers, doctors, and other state-licensed professionals could lose their certification if they failed to fulfill their child-support obligations, under legislation approved by the Colorado Senate.

The bill also would require that applicants for state licenses be asked whether they were current in any court-ordered child-support payments.

The bill is apparently the first of its kind in the nation, according to its sponsor, Senator Sally Hopper.

The Colorado House has passed a bill that would eliminate tenure for public-school teachers.

Critics of the existing tenure law, which enables teachers to gain job security after three years on the job, say it has made it difficult for schools to fire incompetent employees.

Under the new proposal, districts would set standards for defining satisfactory teacher performance; unsatisfactory performance would be grounds for dismissal. The bill also would create a new hearing and appeal process for teachers facing termination.

Members of the Utah Education Association last week accepted a legislative package that would boost pay by about 6 percent and authorize local property-tax increases to reduce class size.

Teachers’ acceptance of the package ended a 10-day strike alert. Eighty-four percent of the uea membership voted to accept the package.

The union’s board of directors had agreed to the package after several days of tense negotiations with Gov. Norman H. Bangerter Jr. and leaders of the legislature.

The union had threatened to strike because of differences over compensation and the level of financial support for education. (See Education Week, Feb. 28, 1990.)

Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. of South Carolina has signed legislation that would restrict teenage girls’ access to abortion by requiring prior parental consent.

But Gov. James J. Blanchard of Michigan has vetoed a similar measure.

The South Carolina law would require all girls under the age of 17 to get the consent of at least one parent or grandparent before they would be allowed to have an abortion. A girl can bypass her parents by requesting a judge’s approval for the procedure. Parents who deny consent would have to share legal and financial responsibility for the child until the mother turns 18.

A version of this article appeared in the March 07, 1990 edition of Education Week as News in Brief