News In Brief

July 31, 1991 4 min read
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The Alabama legislature has given final approval to Gov. Guy Hunt’s sweeping education-reform bill.

The only major change to the bill, which cleared this month, was the elimination of its requirement for all children to attend kindergarten, noted Gene Murphree, a state legislative analyst.

The bill does not provide any funding for implementation of the reform plan. Estimates for full funding for the program range from about $500 million to $670 million annually, Mr. Murphree said.

Some provisions of the bill, such as instituting discipline codes in schools, could be put into place without new funding, however.

The measure, unveiled by Mr. Hunt in May after months of negotiations, enjoyed consensus support from legislators, business leaders, and education groups, including the Alabama Education Association. (See Education Week, May 15, 1991.)

Key provisions of the bill would: allow alternative teacher certification for private-sector professionals; require the state to resume pre-service teacher testing; establish a core curriculum of required courses for all high-school students; allow intradistrict public-school choice; encourage school-based decision making; and extend the school year by four days, to 179, by 1996.

Oregon lawmakers have approved a school-reform plan that would overhaul high schools by requiring students by age 16 to earn a “certificate of initial mastery” before moving on to at least two years of college-preparatory work or job training.

Gov. Barbara Roberts is expected to sign the bill, which implements many of the recommendations of the National Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. (See Education Week, May 15, 1991.)

The first impact of the bill, passed last month, should be seen next year as the education department begins to set new benchmarks for teacher training and student achievement, a legislative aide said.

The Louisiana legislature has suspended the state’s controversial teacher-evaluation program for one year and ordered a revision of the program.

Gov. Buddy Roemer this month signed a resolution suspending the program after the measure was approved overwhelmingly.

Mr. Roemer also signed a bill to require the board of elementary and secondary education to contract with outside consultants who have had experience in developing and implementing teacher-evaluation programs as state officials revamp the program.

The program, adopted in 1988, drew heavy criticism from state teachers’ unions, which contended that the evaluations were unfair and flawed. (See Education Week, May 29, 1991.)

Gov. John Engler of Michigan has signed a bill to relieve schools of the duty of telling students how they can have an abortion without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

Under a law adopted by the legislature last year, all unemancipated minors are required to get the consent of at least one parent before being allowed to receive an abortion. If a minor can convince a judge that she is mature enough to make this decision on her own, however, the law provides that the requirement can be waived.

The bill approved this month dropped a provision of the 1990 law that required schools to give students in grades 6 through 12 a notice outlining the parental-consent and judicial-bypass provisions and providing the address and telephone number of the local probate court. (See Education Week, March 20, 1991.)

Both houses of the California legislature have passed measures that limit advertising-supported television programs in schools, but observers say differences in the bills make it unlikely that either one will become law this year.

The bills target Whittle Communications’ “Channel One” classroom news show, which includes two minutes of paid advertising.

The Senate passed a bill that would prevent schools from signing contracts to show programs to students that include advertisements.

The Assembly bill would require schools to add two minutes to their school day to make up for the time showing ads to students. It would also limit contracts for such programs to three years and give teachers more discretion in deciding whether to show the program.

The Assembly education committee this month voted down the Senate measure.

The Illinois legislature has approved a measure to make it easier for mathematics and science experts to become teachers.

The measure requires the state board of education to establish an alternative-certification program that allows qualified applicants to teach at the high-school level.

A Kentucky judge has struck down a ban on school employees’ participation in school-board campaigns, while upholding a measure curbing nepotism by school-board members.

The rulings marked the first judicial rulings on aspects of the state’s landmark school-reform act of 1990.

Both decisions by Circuit Judge William Graham were expected to be appealed to the state supreme court, officials said.

The reform law prohibited teachers, administrators, and other school employees from taking an active role in the campaigns of board candidates. Judge Graham’s ruling criticized the strict prohibition, noting that school employees could be prosecuted for displaying bumper stickers favoring a board candidate.

The nepotism provisions barred close relatives of school employees from becoming school-board members. Judge Graham ruled that the measure was a proper response to the state supreme court’s order to eliminate favoritism in districts.

Five New Hampshire districts have filed a finance-equity lawsuit against that state’s school-funding system.

The suit notes that nearly 90 percent of school revenues in New Hampshire come from local property taxes--a share considerably higher than in any other state. The result, the challenge contends, are unconstitutional disparities in per-pupil spending and tax burdens among wealthy and poor areas.

A version of this article appeared in the July 31, 1991 edition of Education Week as News In Brief


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