States News Roundup

April 07, 1982 6 min read
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A two-year study of Massachusetts’ special-education law found that the majority of the state’s educators, administrators, and parents support the concept of education for all children and would not favor paring the law down.

Support for Chapter 766, which was enacted in 1972 and predates by three years the federal law for educating handicapped children, averaged about 67 percent among the groups surveyed, according to James McGarry, the project director for the $500,000 study.

Mr. McGarry said the study’s findings are significant because of past attempts by the state legislature to revise the law. He said state officials are worried that there will be more attempts to amend the law because of the financial problems cities and towns are experiencing due to reduced property taxes mandated by Proposition 2.

The study, however, clears up the misconception that the high cost of special education has been the cause of local property-tax increases, according to Mr. McGarry. Instructional expenses tripled during the first four years of the law, he explained, but, since 1978 they “have grown no faster than the rate of inflation.”

It’s barely April, but education officials in Georgia are already predicting that the state will have 5,000 teacher vacancies for the 1982-83 school year.

Julie Elfman, the state education department’s teacher recruiter, reports that she has received calls from superintendents throughout the state who are worried now about filling vacancies for September.

Currently, the state has 130 vacancies--the highest number ever for this time of year, according to Ms. Elfman. Most of the vacancies are in special education, mathematics, and speech and language pathology, she said.

Education officials are hoping to fill some of those vacancies with teachers from districts that have laid off faculty members in response to budget problems and declining enrollments.

In Boston, for example, more than 2,000 teachers lost their jobs in a reduction in force. Ms. Elfman hopes to attract some of them to Georgia. She said that she also received a call from a superintendent in Minnesota, where a school system was being forced to cut the teaching force by one-fourth. Some of those teachers, too, may be enticed to Georgia, Ms. Elfman said. One tactic in the search for more teachers is a series of “job fairs,” to be held around the state. For more information on special-education job fairs, contact Kathy Bush, (404) 656-2425. For information on job fairs in other teaching fields, contact Ms. Elfman, (404) 656-4339.

The Connecticut Board of Labor Relations has made a precedent-setting decision to award punitive damages to a chapter of the state teachers’ union.

The decision orders the Killingly board of education to pay all of the union’s costs for pursuing its complaints before the labor commission, plus any other “reasonable” expenses. These other costs will be determined by the state if the parties cannot reach an agreeable figure.

The relationship between the school board and the Killingly local of the Connecticut Education Association was described as “marked by mistrust and tension” in the labor board’s 18-page decision.

The commission determined that following five unfruitful contract negotiations, which began in September 1980, the school board’s attorney allowed a local newspaper reporter to eavesdrop on the bargaining from an adjacent room. The news leak brought undue pressure on the union, causing a split among members, the commission found.

There has been no word yet on whether the school board will seek appeal.

The Tennessee board of education last month took the first step toward adopting a new state curriculum “framework” that would place greater emphasis on mathematics and language arts in grades 1 through 8.

Acting on the recommendations submitted earlier this year by a statewide advisory committee on proficiency testing, the board passed on “first reading” changes that would require that a minimum of 15 hours during each five-day-week be spent on language arts during grades 1 through 3, and 10 hours during grades 4 through 8. Mathematics requirements would include a minimum of four hours of instruction--with some instruction each day--for the primary grades, and a minimum of five hours for grades 4 through 8.

The recommondations will undergo two additional readings by the board, as well as a public hearing, according to the state education department.

Every two years in Colorado, “Views of Youth” conferences are held to obtain students’ views of educational needs.

The Colorado state board of education uses these views, culled from seven regional meetings that this year involved 391 students from 91 high schools, to develop educational policy. For 1982, the students listed among their priorities more student power in matters before the state board and in the evaluation of teachers, including those holding tenure.

The students also called for:

More choice in the curriculum, including a wider variety of honors, vocational, “social-awareness,” sex-education, and health classes.

Equitable funding of programs, possibly together with a review of athletic programs.

More vocational education, with more programs and courses and with rewards for students’ work.

A statewide grading system, which the students say would ensure consistent grading practices.

More counselors with higher qualifications.

Better school atmosphere and improvement of the attitudes of apathetic people in the schools.

Their attachment to Twinkies and Doritos has cost 150 high-school students in Granby, Conn., substantial drops in their grades.

The students were penalized for staging a demonstration last month against a new policy banning “junk food” from the school’s vending machines.

The local school board decided to remove candy, soda, pastry, potato chips, and other assorted junk foods from the vending machines, replacing them with raisins, nuts, and other items of higher nutritional value.

(The high school serves no hot lunches. Most students bring brown bags or purchase hot food from vending machines.)

No sooner was the decision announced on March 24 than two false fire alarms were set off, forcing the evacuation of all 550 students.

Some 150 students refused to return to classes immediately. Thirty-five holdouts remained outside through the fourth period--many of them drinking beer--until they were dispersed by police. Two were immediately suspended for drinking.

The school’s principal, Richard Kisiel, speculates that the false alarm was pulled in order to set up the boycott. The local fire chief has since placed one of his officers in the school to monitor the situation.

The school’s faculty voted unanimously to enforce provisions in the student handbook, awarding the protesters “unexcused absences” and lowering their grades by 10 points for each class period they missed.

Another 150 students in Wrentham, Mass., were suspended recently after demonstratiing for a somewhat more serious cause.

The students were protesting the local school committee’s plans to drop a course in vocational education and one in child care from the curriculum at King Philip Regional High School because of state spending cuts.

The students, who received up to five days’ suspension, have returned to the school, according to William B. White, the administrative assistant. But, he said last week, “There’s talk of more protests.”

Mr. White said the school district’s current budget was reduced by about $250,000 because of Proposition 2, the state’s property-tax-cutting measure. Although the budget proposed would increase by about $85,000, he said, there is not enough money to continue the two courses.

During a recent meeting, the school committee heard the complaints of the students and their parents and agreed to “take the matter under advisement,” according to Mr. White. “They understand the problem, but it’s one of those things where there’s not a lot they can do about it,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the April 07, 1982 edition of Education Week as States News Roundup


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