States News Roundup

February 22, 1984 6 min read

About 100 public-school teachers protesting their low salaries lined up outside a post office in Summerville, S.C., this month to apply for a custodian’s job that offered $7,000 more than starting South Carolina teachers make.

“We’re doing this as a protest because we want to show people that we make much less than a janitor who doesn’t even need to have a high-school diploma,” said Eileen Maness, a junior-high-school teacher in Summerville.

The annual salary for the custo-dian’s position was listed as $19,867 by the post office. The average salary for public-school teachers in South Carolina is about $12,000, Ms. Maness said .

She added that the teachers participating in the demonstration hoped their action would draw attention to Gov. Richard Riley’s plan to improve education. The Governor has recommended that the state provide additional funds to education for improving teachers’ salaries.

Anticipating a special legislative session in June, the Texas State Board of Education is re-examining the state’s school-finance formula, with an eye toward improving teachers’ salaries and narrowing the gap in per-pupil expenditures between wealthy and poor districts.

W.N. Kirby, the Texas Education Agency’s deputy commissioner for finance and program administration, said the board would develop several formulas and determine how much money each alternative would allocate to each school district. Early discussions have centered on the elimination of provisions in the current formula that channel aid to districts regardless of local property wealth.

To remedy spending disparities and bring teachers’ salaries to the national average, Mr. Kirby said, the board will probably ask the legislature for approximately $2 billion in new funds over the next biennium, or a 25-percent increase over current spending levels. The most recent state revenue projections indicate that the plan would require an increase in taxes.

“We already know there’s a need to do some changing,” Mr. Kirby said. “We’ll probably end up taking away from some districts and adding to others.”

Gov. Mark White, who has expressed his support for raising teachers’ salaries and channeling more state aid to poor school districts, is expected to call a legislative session in late spring, by which time a special panel on public schools, headed by H. Ross Perot, will also have made its recommendations.

Florida should spend $53 million on merit pay, enough to reward more than one-third of its 90,000 public school teachers, a statewide panel decided last week.

The panel of 15 business leaders, lawmakers, and educators made its recommendation despite predictions by high-level officials that much less may be available.

The 1983 legislature set aside $80 million for the 1984-85 school year to be divided between the merit-pay program and the creation of a 7th period in the high schools.

The panel, established to advise the legislature on merit pay and other educational reforms, decided that only $27 million of the $80 million should be devoted to extending the school day.

But Gov. Robert Graham told the panel prior to its vote that extending the school day may cost twice that much.

And Michael Kane, the panel’s executive director, said some school officials have estimated that more than $100 million will be needed for that purpose.

Mr. Kane, however, has also told the panel that spending much less than $60 million on merit pay “would effectively preclude” any chance for the reward system “to result in increased student achievement.”

Mr. Kane, a former official of the National Institute of Education, also said he found no definitive academic benefit in a 7th period unless the legislature creates guidelines on how it should be used.

The Virginia House of Delegates last week approved a controversial measure to bar students who do not register for the draft from attending state-funded colleges and universities and from recieving Virginia Tuition Assistance Grants.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 67 to 33, is opposed by the Virginia Council of Higher Education.

The Council, the coordinating body for the state’s 39 public higher-education institutions, has argued against the bill on grounds that are “strictly procedural,” according to Martha Crunkleton, assistant to the director of the higher-education board."Colleges and universities should not be instruments of state government to enforce federal law,” she said.

But some House delegates and anti-draft organizations say that the bill is not only procedurally wrong but also constitutionally unsound and in violation of students’ due-process rights.

According to an aide to Delegate Kenneth R. Plum, “Nowhere else in the law are additional state penalties added onto what is now a federal offense.” The bill is also biased, the aide said, because it focuses on young males as a class and contains “no sanctions against women” or men who otherwise resist the draft.

According to the Rev. L. William Yolton, executive director of the National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors in Washington, D.C., the Virginia legislation is “riddled with inequities” and “problems of due process.”

“The bill, like the Solomon Amendment, would attempt to legislate class punishment without giving people a chance to present an argument and provide evidence.” He said that, in essence, “administrators are asked to be judge and jury issuing punishment.”

A federal law, commonly referred to as the Solomon Amendment, authorizes the U.S. Education Department to deny federal aid to young men who have not registered for the draft. The 1982 law is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court in the case, Selective Service System v. Minnesota Public Interest Research Group. The Court agreed to review the case in December but has not yet set a date when oral arguments will be heard.

Gov. Rudy Perpich of Minnesota will ask the state legislature next month for funding to plan a new performing-arts school for talented high-school students, according to a spokesman in the Governor’s office.

The Governor will ask legislators for $148,000 to fund the planning of the arts school, which would be located in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area and would be modeled after the School for the Performing Arts in New York City.

If the legislature approves funding for a planning commission, Governor Perpich will make a final recommendation next year, based on the group’s report, on the establishment of the state-supported school for the arts.

The Connecticut Freedom of In-formation Commission will decide next month whether the Somers Board of Education must release the evaluation records of all school employees to a local newspaper. The commission indicated last month that it probably would approve the release of the documents.

The editor of the Manchester Journal-Inquirer last year filed a complaint with the commission asking that the school officials be ordered to turn over the records. The editor cited the state law that requires public disclosure of information that is in “the public interest.”

Somers officials and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education have maintained that “the individual rights [of privacy] supercede the public interest,” said Patrice MacCarthy, the lawyer for the association. The major teachers’ organizations in the state have also opposed the request.

If the press or the public suspects that there are irregularities in the way evaluations are being conducted, Ms. McCarthy said, they should ask for an explanation of how the evaluation process works but should not seek specific information about the people involved.

Utah high-school students have responded quickly to the University of Utah’s announcement that, beginning in 1987, it would require all entering freshmen to complete two years of foreign-language study.

This year, enrollments in language courses in Utah schools are up by more than 50 percent, according to Steven W. Durrant, chairman of the department of languages at the University of Utah.

“High-school enrollments often take shape around what colleges are requiring,” Mr. Durrant said.

To meet the new admissions standards, about 26 percent of students are enrolled in language courses--up from about 17 percent a few years ago.

A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 1984 edition of Education Week as States News Roundup