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.
Deconstructing the Department: A Reagan administration task force charged with figuring out how to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education is deadlocked on what to do and is now at least a week beyond a deadline to make recommendations. One faction, including Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, wants to turn the department into a foundation similar to the National Science Foundation. The other side prefers to disperse the department’s duties among other Cabinet agencies.
Philadelphia Strike: Members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers comply with a court order and end an almost two-month walkout that had kept most of the district’s 213,000 students at home. During the strike, 200 of 266 city schools were open. But that primarily consisted of elementary schools kept open to offer classes to 4th graders only [Not available online.]
Accountability: New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Thomas H. Kean says the state’s six-year effort to use testing to ensure basic literacy in reading and arithmetic is a failure. The Republican, citing poor SAT scores for New Jersey high school seniors, says that if elected over Democratic candidate James J. Florio, he will “re-evaluate the whole program.” [Not available online.]
Bell’s Toll: Education Secretary Terrel H. Bell, in a letter to Reagan budget chief David Stockman, says the 12 percent cut in his department’s budget is in reality more like 27 percent. “It now places me in a position of considerable embarrassment,” Mr. Bell writes. In a separate letter, he says that a budget official, informed that the department had inadvertently left $900 million out of its earlier budget request, said the department “would have to eat” the difference.
School Income Tax: The Pennsylvania Senate votes 30-16 to allow school districts to levy an income tax of up to 3.5 percent. The levy would replace property taxes as schools’ main revenue generator. The House has yet to take up the bill.
Falwell Fallout: The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the head of the Moral Majority, travels to Nebraska to lead a rally in support of an unaccredited Christian school that has been closed by court order. Authorities, after earlier padlocking the church door, have removed the lock, and the church continues to operate the school. Nebraskans, an official with the state school administrators’ association says in a reference to the presence of Mr. Falwell and others at the rally, do not need “outsiders sticking their supercilious noses into the conduct of Nebraska business.”