States News Roundup

January 11, 1984 7 min read

Christian School

In Nebraska Opens

Despite Court Ban

The Christian school in Nebraska that has been the focus of a bitter fight over the state’s right to regulate private schools last week opened in defiance of a court order, and authorities would not say whether they would further prosecute school leaders.

The Faith Christian School in Louisville started its winter session with 27 students in attendance. The Cass County Court has ordered the school to close unless it complies with state certification regulations.

The opening of the school came on the heels of demonstrations by Christian-school supporters across the country. One group of about 100 people demonstrated last month in front of the White House. The group left a petition asking President Reagan to intervene in the controversy.

Seven fathers of Faith Christian School students have been jailed for contempt of court since Nov. 23 for refusing to testify in court to explain their involvement with the school. Eight women and the leader of the church school are reported to be staying in Council Bluffs, Iowa, during the controversy.

The leader of the school, the Rev. Everett Sileven, is being sought by the county court. He is reported to have given speeches in Iowa and Alabama.

Thirteen other Christian schools in the state are operating without state-certified teachers, according to press reports, but no other school officials have been jailed in the cases. All of those schools are involved in litigation, the reports said.

Indiana Task Force

Proposes Merit Pay,

Longer School Year

Merit pay, a longer school year, competency testing, and increased discipline were among a series of reform proposals announced by the Education Task Force of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce last month.

The proposals, which will be submitted to the 1984 General Assembly this month, were written by the seven-member panel charged with updating the Chamber’s 1972 education policy, according to William Styring, a staff executive.

In a series of position papers, the task force recommended:

Pay for excellence for teachers, a concept the panel said should not be “bargainable.”

An appointed state superintendent of public instruction. The superintendency is now an elected position.

A longer school year. Indiana currently requires students to attend school 175 days of the year. Although the panel did not recommend a specific number of days, Mr. Styring said schools should make sure students are attending class all 175 days. A typical school year, he said, is usually closer to 170 days due to missed days that are not made up and the scheduling of half days at the beginning of the school year.

A recognition of the importance of the basic structure and attitudes of education.

Communities, the panel recommended, should support higher expectations for students and stronger classroom discipline.

Competency testing for both students and entry-level teachers. The panel did not recommend specific tests or grade levels, but did maintain that the current lack of competency testing for teachers and standardized statewide pupil testing should be remedied.

Utah Legislator

Proposes Trust Fund

For Education

A plan to finance elementary and secondary education in Utah with proceeds from a state trust fund will be introduced in the Utah legislature this month.

The plan would require the state to put its revenues from the use of state lands, including mineral-lease funds and trespass and grazing-rights fees, into a trust fund for education each year, rather than putting the money directly into the state school fund.

Placing those revenues--about $25 million annually--in a trust fund eventually will generate enough income to fund the state’s entire education budget, according to Representative Ervin Skousen, the Salt Lake City Republican who is sponsoring the bill.

Although it would take “75 to 100 years” before interest from the trust fund could finance the state’s entire education budget, Representative Skousen estimates that the plan would pay for itself after about 10 years. The state legislature would have to make up the difference in state-lands revenues during that time, he added.

Ultimately, the plan would elimi-nate property taxation for education and cut the tax bill of Utah citizens in half, Representative Skousen said.

Gov. Scott M. Matheson is in favor of the trust-fund plan, aides said, and according to Representative Skousen, the plan has broad-based support in the capital.

“I have support from every organization in education, as well as in government,” he said. “The state board [of education] actually was thinking of the same thing.”

California Library

To Fund Statewide

Literacy Program

The California State Library in Sacramento released $2.5 million in federal grants last month to finance a statewide literacy campaign. The funding measure represents the first time a state library has designated federal library funds for such a project.

Twenty-eight libraries that applied for project funding under the Library Services and Construction Act will share the grant to develop local adult-literacy campaigns, according to Gail McGovern, a library consultant. Scheduled to begin immediately and end in September, the programs include studies of com-puter-assisted audio-visual methods, community learning centers, and literacy in employment-training programs, according to Carmela Ruby, a consultant for the California Literacy Campaign.

The campaigns are directed at adults who are not otherwise being served by the current educational system, Ms. Ruby explained. Some 2.5 million California adults cannot read and write English at the 4th-grade level, and 6 million of the state’s 17.3 million adults do not have a high-school diploma.

Minnesota Board

Calls for More

Academic Courses

The Minnesota State Board of Education last month recommended that the number of required high-school academic courses that schools offer be increased.

In a presentation to the Minnesota Senate Education Committee, William Ridley, board chairman, presented a revised curriculum plan in which high schools would be required to offer at least five year-long courses in English; four years each of mathematics, science, and social studies; two years each of foreign language, music, and visual arts; and one year of industrial arts.

In addition, according to the board’s proposal, high schools would be required to provide students with “information-technology literacy” courses and guidance for making course choices, according to Mr. Ridley.

Minnesota’s 437 districts are currently required to provide those courses required for graduation--four years of English, three years of social studies, and one-year courses in science and mathematics.

The board’s recommendations--which are part of a long-term goal to create individualized education plans for every student by 1990--would not change graduation requirements, but “simply mean schools must offer those courses,” Mr. Ridley explained.

Public hearings on the proposed curriculum plan are scheduled to begin in March, Mr. Ridley said. The proposal does not require legislative approval to become law.

Also speaking before the Senate committee, Education Commissioner Ruth Randall presented recommendations for restructuring the state’s school system. Ms. Randall advocates that students be moved from one grade to the next according to achievement instead of age, and that competency tests be established to set promotions and graduation standards, according to an education department spokesman.

Teacher’s Religious

Dress Violates

Oregon Statute

An Oregon public-school teacher was suspended with pay last month for wearing articles of religious clothing while teaching.

The Eugene School Board voted unanimously to suspend Karta Kaur Khalsa in accordance with a state law that prohibits teachers from wearing religious clothing in the classroom.

Ms. Khalsa is a member of the Sikh faith, an Indian religion, and was wearing a turban and other white clothing--the traditional dress of her religion--to school.

A lawsuit against the school board would be “premature,” said Rohn Roberts, Ms. Khalsa’s attorney. However, if state officials revoke her teaching license, which also is required under the law, Ms. Khalsa will challenge the constitutionality of the action, Mr. Roberts said.

“Rumor has it,” Mr. Roberts said, “that the law was designed to prevent nuns from teaching in public schools.”

Mr. Roberts added that the law dates back to 1920 when the Ku Klux Klan was “very active” in the state.

A version of this article appeared in the January 11, 1984 edition of Education Week as States News Roundup