Sanctions for Academically Poor Schools Urged

December 05, 1984 2 min read

Declare Them ‘Bankrupt,’ Governors Told

Lincoln, Neb--School systems that do not meet high academic standards should be forced to declare “academic bankruptcy,” Constantine Curris, president of the University of Northern Iowa, suggested to Midwestern governors meeting here this month.

Any poor school system should be placed under a “temporary receiver,” such as the state department of education, said Mr. Curris, who addressed the group’s 23rd annual meeting. The receiver might require the system to merge with a stronger district, he added, describing a school-district sanction that has been considered or experimented with in several states, including Arkansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, and New York.

A governor’s commission in Iowa this month also included in its school-reform proposals a recommendation for some kind of state takeover of school districts that fail to meet minimum standards.

Mr. Curris argued that governors must be willing to help school systems improve their curricula and personnel policies regardless of the political consequences.

Increase Enrollments

The university official, who heads an Iowa panel on teacher training and certification, said some education schools appear to believe that “the number of heads is more important than what’s in them,” as they attempt to shore up declining enrollments.

The Iowa commission, he said, has proposed that permanent certification of teachers be abandoned in favor of renewable certificates. And internships for first-year teachers are a better way to judge quality than are competency tests, he said.

Arguing that the teacher shortage predicted for later in this decade may be “the most severe this nation has experienced in half a century,” Mr. Curris warned the governors that not only should teacher-training standards be upgraded but that teacher pay must be made more competitive with that of other fields.

Iowa’s governor, Terry Branstad, agreed that “it is going to take more money to attract good teachers,” but he warned fellow governors that the higher taxes that will take could drive business and industry out of the state.

Local school boards must take the initiative, said Gov. Robert Kerrey of Nebraska, in telling the public that there is a limit to what can be done with local funds.

The governors--representing Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin--endorsed joint action to use technology to reach more students and plans to cooperate on regional research efforts to benefit their states’ economies and educational systems.

--Jack Kennedy

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A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 1984 edition of Education Week as Sanctions for Academically Poor Schools Urged