As Education Week marks its 20th anniversary, here are some of the people, events, and issues that were making news 20 years ago.
Selected stories from March 24, 1982:
Asbestos Protection: A congressional subcommittee lashes out at the Environmental Protection Agency for its delays in publishing a rule that would require an asbestos-protection program in every public and private school in the country. The federal agency estimates that up to 40 percent of the nation’s approximately 100,000 schools have not been inspected for asbestos, which is widely believed to cause lung cancer and other serious health problems.
Appropriate Education: Ruling in the case of a deaf child from Kentucky, a federal appeals court holds that the “appropriate education” guaranteed under federal law to children with disabilities doesn’t necessarily mean the best available. In upholding a lower court’s decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit says the existence of a program considered to be better by the boy’s parents did not mean that the program offered by Bullitt County school officials was inappropriate.
Block Grants: Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia face the loss of large amounts of federal money under a new block grant program. Meanwhile, 13 states stand to get more money, and 12 expect to receive about the same amount. Interviews with state block grant administrators indicate the new program will result in a large-scale redistribution of funds—from urban districts to sparsely populated areas; from public schools to private; and from districts accomplished in the art of grantsmanship to ones that have never received any federal grants.
Closing Schools: Controversies over school-closing proposals are preoccupying school administrators in many large and small districts across the country that are trying to deal with declining student enrollment. In Minneapolis, for instance, the school board voted to close 18 of the city’s 79 elementary and secondary schools, prompting some parents to threaten legal action.
Coach Class: U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, who presides over a much-reduced federal education budget, is doing his bit to keep his professional-travel costs down, according to the weekly magazine U.S. News & World Report. Unlike the other 12 members of the president’s Cabinet, Mr. Bell regularly travels in coach class when the requirements of his job take him out of town. “I need to set an example,” he says.
Demoting Administrators: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court says school districts in the state have the authority to demote administrators to lower- paying jobs without holding prior hearings. In a 4-3 decision, the justices overturn a 1979 ruling by a lower state court, which had held that the Philadelphia district’s 1977 demotion of 240 administrators violated the state’s public school code because it did not give the employees individual hearings before their demotions.
School Prayer: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit rules that the practice of allowing students in Lubbock, Texas, to pray at school before and after classes violates the violates the First Amendment’s ban on a government establishment of religion. The court rejects the school district’s argument that the prayer meetings were an extension of the voluntary, “open forum” prayer meetings upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A version of this article appeared in the March 20, 2002 edition of Education Week as Retrospective