September 05, 2001 2 min read

As Education Week marks its 20th anniversary, here are some of the people, events, and issues that were making news 20 years ago this week.

Selected stories from Sept. 7, 1981.

Education Department: In an explosive memo obtained by Education Week, U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell outlines for President Reagan how to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education, asserting that “the federal government does not have a responsibility for education.” The proposal, which characterizes the federal role in education as “overly intrusive,” calls for downgrading the Cabinet-level department to a foundation that would administer block grants, collect information, and conduct research.

Desegregation: East Baton Rouge Parish in Louisiana begins busing 13,000 students to the district’s 67 newly desegregated elementary schools, joining more than 720 other school districts nationwide under state or federal court order to desegregate. [Not in archive.]

Cleveland Clash: Federal marshals briefly jail the president of the Cleveland school board and the district’s treasurer for holding up the paychecks of some 30 employees in the district’s desegregation department- the latest in a yearlong series of conflicts between school officials and a court-appointed desegregation administrator.

Used Textbooks: The California Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, strikes down the state’s practice of lending state-owned textbooks to private school students, saying it was in effect an indirect subsidy to religious schools.

Minorities and Math: Citing acute deficits that keep members of minority groups from entering high-tech careers, the Ford Foundation announces a $1.1 million project to improve mathematics teaching and learning.

Dropouts: One-quarter of the young people in the United States fail to complete high school, a proportion that has remained relatively constant throughout the past decade, the National Center for Education Statistics estimates.

Public Opinion: A Gallup Poll reveals that 23 percent of the American public believes that a “lack of discipline” is the most pressing problem facing the nation’s public schools. Fifteen percent cite drug use; 14 percent, poor curriculum or standards; 12 percent, insufficient resources; and 11 percent, the difficulty of luring good teachers. [Not in archive.]

Homework: The proportion of high school seniors spending less than five hours a week on homework has increased from 54 percent in 1972 to 68 percent in 1980, according to a National Center for Education Statistics survey of high school graduates.