News Updates

January 15, 1992 3 min read

The San Francisco Unified School District has decided not to implement a sales-tax increase approved by voters last month in light of a state supreme court decision that new special-use taxes must be approved by two-thirds of the voters.

While city school officials initially had indicated that they would go ahead with the quarter-cent sales-tax hike, which was expected to generate $21 million in its first year, they have put the plan on hold indefinitely, a district official said.

Officials said the school board voted to drop the tax plan after deciding that the San Francisco tax would most likely be struck down if challenged on the basis of the supreme court’s recent ruling. (See Education Week, Jan. 8, 1992.)

The state high court ruled that, under Proposition 13, a 1978 tax-limitation measure, new special-purpose taxes must win a two-thirds vote to take effect. The San Francisco question was approved by 55 percent of the voters.

An Illinois teacher held responsible for encouraging cheating on standardized tests will be reassigned to other duties.

Linda Chase, who was suspended from her position as principal of Cherokee Elementary School in Lake Forest, an affluent suburb of Chicago, will be paid the salary of a tenured teacher, the local school board decided.

A hearing officer appointed by a local judge to hear the district’s eight charges against Ms. Chase decided earlier this month that the district had proved five of its charges. The district had begun investigating the school when it discovered its students posted significantly higher test results than did other area elementary schools. (‘See Education Week, Jan. 8, 1991 .)

Ms. Chase was held responsible for encouraging her faculty to cheat on the tests, urging them to erase and change test answers, and distributing classroom materials on topics that would later be covered on the tests. She has denied the charges.

Baltimore city officials say they plan to close school for one week next month to help close a budget deficit, despite opposition from the state board of education.

School officials have dubbed the week of Feb. 17 “Independent Study Week” and will distribute take-home packets of study materials for the week.

Mayor Kurt Schmoke announced in November that he would shut down the school system for a week and furlough the city’s 8,500 teachers and aides and 2,000 other employees for the week. (See Education Week, Nov. 20, 1991 .)

In response, the state board barred districts from offering fewer than 180 days of instruction and has said it will not back down from that requirement.

The city has lost $27 million in state aid and expects to lose another $13 million. The school shutdown is expected to save an estimated $7.5 million.

Voters in a Massachusetts school district said to have the largest elementary-school class in the state have once again rejected a referendum to bail out the school system and allow it to rehire laid-off teachers.

Voters in the town of Wales did, however, overwhelmingly approve a referendum to raise property taxes to reopen the town’s trash dump.

The $160,000 school referendum was defeated by a vote of 407 against, 249 in favor, while the $20,000 trash referendum passed easily, 408 to 249.

Five of the district’s seven teachers were laid off in November when voters failed to pass a similar referendum. As a result, Wales Elementary School has a combined 5th and 6th grade class of 58 students, a 3rd and 4th grade class of 52 pupils, and a K-2 class of 76 students. (See Education Week, Dec. 11, 1991.)

The district is expected to apply for emergency school aid recently approved by Gov. William Weld.

The La Crosse, Wis., school board last week approved what is believed to be the first student-assignment plan designed to place students explicitly for the sake of achieving socioeconomic balance. (See Education Week, Oct. 30, 1991 .)

The board voted 8 to 1 to assign more than one-fifth of the district’s 3,500 elementary-school students to new schools to bring students from different income groups in the mostly white and Hmong district into closer contact.

Under the plan, the number of students at a given school who qualify for federal lunch subsidies would range from 15 percent to 50 percent instead of the current 4 percent to 68 percent, with students being bused away from their neighborhoods if necessary to bring about more socioeconomic balance.

Kevin C. O’Keefe of Citizens and Parents for Neighborhood Schools, a group that opposed the plan, last week termed the new plan “crazy” and accused the board of ignoring public sentiment.

A version of this article appeared in the January 15, 1992 edition of Education Week as News Updates