State News Roundup

March 24, 1982 5 min read
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A bill that would have denied state tax exemptions to discriminatory private schools has died in the Virginia House, after passing the Senate.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator L. Douglas Wilder of Richmond, the measure would have denied tax exempt status to schools that discriminated on the basis of race, but not on the basis of religion.

There are 11 such schools in Virginia that in the past have been denied federal tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service.

Mr. Wilder said the bill was modeled on the legislation President Reagan introduced after his Administration’s reversal, on Jan. 8, of federal policy denying schools tax exemptions if they discriminate on racial grounds.

Fundamentalist Christian groups lobbied heavily against the bill in the House, calling it a threat to religious freedom, he said.

“In the House these religious people came out of the ground and said the bill was going to be an encroachment on their rights,” Mr. Wilder said.

After the legislative defeat, Mr. Wilder decided against taking any legal action in Virginia because the U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to consider the same issue.

The school board of Palm Beach County, Fla., has filed suit against the state’s board of education, alleging that the state’s method of calculating local wealth results in disproportionate distribution of state aid to districts because it takes into accounts only real-property value, not personal income or other factors.

The suit, The Palm Beach County School Board v. the State Board of Education, was filed in the 15th Judicial Circuit Court in Palm Beach.

The state’s formula, the Florida Education Finance Program, operates on the “false assumption” that counties with high real-property values are wealthy, said Bruce Spector, an attorney with the Palm Beach district.

Real-property value is not a sufficient index for deciding to what extent a district can afford to support the education of its children, Mr. Spector said. The formula exaggerates the wealth of the wealthier counties and minimizes that of the poorer counties, according to the suit. Using the “real-property” index, Palm Beach County and other affluent counties appear to be seven times wealthier than poorer counties. When personal income is used as the index, the discrepancy shrinks, and Palm Beach appears only twice as affluent.

“Probably a fairer way of judging wealth could be arrived at,” Mr. Spector said. The state board of education, which was served the papers on the suit on Feb. 25, has 40 days to respond. Palm Beach officials hope the case will be heard on its merits within nine months.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has given school districts in the state the authority to demote administrators to lower-paying jobs without holding prior hearings.

In a 4-3 decision, the justices overturned a 1979 ruling by a lower state court which had held that the Philadelphia school district’s 1977 demotion of 240 administrative-staff members violated the state’s Public School Code because it did not give the school district’s employees individual hearings prior to their demotion.

One hearing for all the employees was held on June 30, 1977, after they had been demoted. Those demoted included administrators, assistant administrators, supervisors and secretaries.

The state’s high court, acting on an appeal by the Philadelphia district, reinterpreted the 1949 law and ruled that, although professional employees are entitled to a hearing, the hearing may be held after demotions go into effect.

The court said school districts need greater flexibility to cut costs.

A Delaware court has rejected a school board’s attempt to limit the number of issues teachers could bring to the bargaining table.

Vice Chancellor Grover Brown of the Delaware Court of Chancery, a state trial court, ruled that the state’s current collective-bargaining law allows negotiations on the transfer of teachers, hours of work and teaching load, teacher evaluation, teacher transfers, filling of administrative positions, and recall of school employees.

Although teachers and school boards in Delaware have been bargaining over these issues since 1969, when the state legislature gave public-school employees the right to unionize, the Colonial School District had contended that state law limited bargaining to wages, benefits, and physical working conditions.

The school board argued that since district was new (it was established last year as a result of a desegregation and reorganization plan in New Castle County), it should not have to operate under collective-bargaining policies it had no hand in creating.

What began as an exercise in learning about state government through participation has ended in frustration for students in a suburban Denver elementary school.

Despite intensive and sophisticated lobbying, including providing a free lunch for 10 state legislators, a student-backed bill to get the stegosaurus designated as the official Colorado state fossil has been killed for the second consecutive year.

The fifth- and sixth-grade students from McElwain Elementary School in Thornton did their homework well. They researched the history of dinosaurs in Colorado, selected the stegosaurus as most appropriate to be named state fossil, persuaded a local legislator to sponsor a bill, testifed before legislative committees in support of their proposal, generated statewide publicity, and even invited legislators to lunch at their school--all in vain.

Last year, after the state Senate had passed the measure, the chairman of the House committee on health, environment, and welfare killed the bill when he ruled there wasn’t time left in the legislative session to consider it.

This year, Gov. Richard Lamm included the bill on his list of measures to be considered by the legislature, and it passed the house committee that had blocked it the year before. But the chairman of the House rules committee killed the proposal, saying it committed future generations to something that isn’t crucial.

So “Steggy"--as the students call their dinosaur--won’t take his or her place as state fossil alongside Colorado’s state flower, the Rocky Mountain columbine, and the state tree, the Colorado blue spruce.


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