News in Brief

August 05, 1992 4 min read

Pennsylvania public-school teachers will have some restrictions placed on their right to strike, under a measure signed into law by Gov. Robert P. Casey.

The law, approved easily by both houses of the legislature, is a somewhat weaker version of a bill introduced last year to curb walkouts in the state. Pennsylvania consistently has had the most teachers’ strikes in the nation.

The new law regulates the time line and procedures for collective bargaining, bans selective strikes, and requires unions to give 48-hour notice before walking out. Moreover, teachers may strike only twice during a school year.

In exchange for their general support of the measure, teachers'-union officials expect to reach agreement with school boards sooner because the law mandates a time frame for negotiations.

A last-minute amendment to the legislation that would have permitted administrators’ unions to participate in the collective-bargaining process was rejected. (See Education Week, June 17, 1992.)

By a slim margin, North Dakota voters have rejected binding arbitration in teacher contracts.

The measure, which had already been passed by the legislature and was referred to the ballot because of a petition challenge, failed with 49 percent of the vote.

The June 9 election represented the climax of a long struggle between teachers, who strongly backed the plan to allow stalled contract negotiations to be settled by an independent panel, and school-board advocates, who warned that outside arbiters could make decisions that properly belong to an elected board. (See Education Week, June 3, 1992.)

“It was a very important victory for us,’' said Barbara Norby, the assistant executive director for the North Dakota School Boards Association.

Ms. Norby predicted, however, that the state teachers’ union will continue to press the legislature to pass another arbitration bill or a “right to strike’’ law.

Gov. George V. Voinovich has drawn Ohio’s new state-school-board districts after lawmakers could not reach agreement on boundaries for the larger districts.

The remapping was required after lawmakers passed Mr. Voinovich’s plan to cut the size of the state board from 21 members to 11. Each new board district consists of three contiguous Senate districts.

The streamlining will break up what was the nation’s largest state school board and, according to its supporters, make governance more manageable and effective.

Board members will be elected from the new districts in November.

The Michigan House has passed a resolution declaring the state to be multilingual.

The resolution, overwhelmingly passed by the House this summer, was described by sponsors as an effort to block attempts to make English the official language of the Great Lakes State.

The House resolution said communication in other languages is vital to the state, which relies heavily on trade and exchanges with other nations.

The resolution also said recent proposals to establish English as the state’s official language would “encourage the false notion that only one language is needed to conduct business in a multilingual world’’ and “foster a chauvinistic mentality’’ that hinders understanding of other people and cultures.

According to English Plus, an organization that promotes multilingualism, three other states have declared themselves to be multilingual, while Hawaii is officially a bilingual state. About a third of the states, on the other hand, have declared English to be their official language.

South Dakota school districts could experience a sharp decline in revenues from school lands as a result of a state supreme court decision, according to state officials.

The supreme court ruled in June that counties may no longer assess the value of leases on state-owned school and public lands based on the value of the land, but instead must calculate the assessment based only on the value of the lease.

Because the value of a lease is considerably less than the value of the land, the ruling means that some school districts could see a dramatic decline in their revenue from taxes on school and public lands, explained David D. Wiest, an assistant state attorney general.

Income for the leases, which are usually for grazing land, is divided among all public schools on a per-pupil basis.

Despite the Virginia legislature’s attempts to address school-funding disparities, a coalition of low-income districts has sued the state for the second time.

The group of rural and inner-city districts, which contends that Virginia’s method of funding schools is inequitable, filed a similar lawsuit last fall but withdrew it to give lawmakers an opportunity to address the issue in their 1992 session.

The legislature came up with a $74-million package of additional aid targeted primarily at poor and limited-English-proficient students. But that was not enough to satisfy coalition leaders, who maintain that it may take as much as $800 million to address the disparities.

A legislative commission was set up this year to study funding disparities and report in time for the 1993 legislative session. State officials say the new lawsuit may halt the commission’s work.

A version of this article appeared in the August 05, 1992 edition of Education Week as News in Brief