States News Roundup

June 06, 1984 8 min read

N.C. Governor Asks

For Teachers’ Raises,

Smaller Classes

Last week, on the eve of the North Carolina General Assembly’s 1984 legislative session, Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. formally asked legislators to adopt his $300-million package of 31 education measures, which includes a salary reclassification for teachers and a reduction in class size.

In a letter to Lt. Gov. James C. Green and House Speaker Liston Ramsey, Governor Hunt requested that teachers’ salaries be reclassified to give them a 4.8-percent pay raise above and beyond the 10-percent across-the-board pay increase he has already requested, according to Brent Hackney, the Governor’s press secretary. Governor Hunt is also seeking to reduce class size in grades 4 through 6 from the current level of 30 students to 26 students, Mr. Hackney said.

Most of the 31 proposals in the Governor’s education package are similar to recommendations contained in a report submitted earlier this year by the North Carolina Commission on Education for Economic Growth, a panel the Governor appointed last November.

"[The education package] seems to have a lot of support in the legislature,” Mr. Hackney said, “but anything can happen.”

The state’s legislative session is scheduled to begin this week and to conclude by the end of the month.

Illinois Senate Passes

Asbestos-Removal Bill

Legislation to force public and private schools to remove or neutralize asbestos in their buildings has passed in the Illinois Senate.

But the lawmakers said they would not authorize funding for the program until a study of the costs can be completed next year.

“Although we are not yet certain what the cost of inspecting and removing friable asbestos from all our schools will be, we do know there is a serious problem,” said Senator Arthur Berman, the bill’s sponsor.

Under the measure, which is now being considered by the House, schools would be required to remove, “encapsulate,” or enclose the problem. Schools that have already undertaken corrective action may be eligible for reimbursement once a financing system is developed.

Also, the State Department of Public Health would be directed to inspect schools, hold hearings, and report to the General Assembly by January 1985 on the extent of the problem and the cost of correcting it.

In other legislative action, the House has rejected a bill to require that all new school buses be equipped with seat belts and that students be mandated to use them. According to the bill’s sponsors, Illinois would have been the first state to enact such a requirement.

Maryland Board Sets

Formal Guidelines

For Home Schooling

The Maryland State Board of Education has formally adopted home-schooling guidelines to “amplify but not replace” the state’s compulsory-attendance law, according to Gus Crenson, a spokesman for the Mary-land Department of Education.

The attendance law requires children ages 6 to 16 to attend a public school unless they otherwise receive “regular and thorough instruction” in a program of study “normally taught to children of the same age in public schools.”

The new guidelines, which have been modified in response to public hearings over the past year, address many of the concerns that arose in a recent home-schooling suit in the state, Mr. Crenson said. The suit, brought by the state against a couple who taught their child at home, was dismissed by the presiding circuit-court judge on the grounds that there was no evidence that the couple violated state law. (See Education Week, May 9, 1984.)

Under the new guidelines, those who teach in home-schooling programs must be certified by the state or must have graduated from college with adequate background in the areas taught in the home program. The requirements can be waived upon the approval of the local superintendent if justified “by reasons of the parent’s previous teaching or occupational experience, special preparation, or other qualifications.”

Correspondence courses approved for use by the state can be acceptable if specifically approved by the local superintendent. Superintendents must also approve a written plan by the parents that includes the schedule to be followed, learning objectives, and the subjects to be taught. The subjects must be the same as those taught in a public school.

Local districts are responsible for monitoring and evaluating the home-education program and must submit to the state education department their policies and regulations for the approval of home-instructional programs.

The guidelines will ensure that there is “reasonable uniformity and confidence on the part of superintendents that they will be acting within a set of rules established by the state board and by their own school boards,” Mr. Crenson said. “What we have instituted is an orderly and consistent process which ensures that kids receive an education.”

Ohio Legislators

Debate Schools’ Use

Of Lottery Funds

The Ohio General Assembly remains divided over how some $80-million in unanticipated lottery revenue earmarked for education should be spent.

The legislature, which is in recess until later this month, had been considering a bill that would allocate half the projected surplus to the purchase of textbooks, computer hardware and software, and emergency repairs. The remaining $40 million would go into a"rainy day” fund for educational purposes.

The bill, which has the backing of Gov. Richard F. Celeste, was passed last month by members of the House. But its supporters were unable to garner enough votes in the Senate prior to the legislature’s recess last week.

William Thillis, legislative liaison for the Ohio Department of Education, said the chairman of the Senate’s education committee and a number of Republican senators are opposed to the idea of withholding any of the surplus funds and have argued in favor of distributing the money to the schools for the coming school year. The bill will be consid-ered again when the Senate reconvenes later this month.

Arkansas Governor

Says Voters Support

Educational Reform

Gov. Bill Clinton won the Democratic gubernatorial primary last Tuesday on what he says amounted to a “referendum” on the educational reform package adopted by the Arkansas legislature last fall.

The Governor carried 64 percent of the vote, with the remaining votes divided among his three major opponents, Kermit C. Moss, an accountant from Pine Bluff; Lonnie Turner, a former deputy prosecutor; and Monroe Schwarzlose, a retired turkey farmer.

“Education was very much a central issue of the campaign,” said Joan Roberts, an aide to the governor. “All of his opponents have in some fashion or another expressed their opposition and willingness to repeal parts of the education package.”

The reform package included an increase in the sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent that will increase funding for education by $150 million. Other reforms included: a new funding formula for the distribution of state aid; higher salaries for teachers; minimum-competency testing for students and teachers; an expanded kindergarten program; a statewide discipline policy; and stricter graduation requirements.

Minnesota Panelists

Report on 8 Issues

Ten regional task forces appointed by Minnesota Education Commissioner Ruth E. Randall reported last week that local educators, not the state, should determine how much homework is given and that changes must be made before a proposed system involving individualized education plans for each student will work.

The regional panels, made up of 160 teachers and administrators appointed in January to weigh eight educational issues, also agreed that, while teachers throughout Minnesota have similar concerns and problems, education solutions must allow for individual differences among students in local districts.

The panel reports represent the second phase in a public-comment initiative to provide the commissioner with ideas for developing new policies and legislative proposals, according to Laura Zahn, executive aide to Ms. Randall. Last month, the reports of statewide town meetings and public questionnaires were published in “Minnesota Dialogue on Education.” (See Education Week, May 6, 1984.)

Noting that “there really was very little [besides homework and individualized education plans] that they agreed upon,” Ms. Zahn said the groups’ reports offered several perspectives on each issue.

Most panelists supported the concept of basing instruction on learner outcomes, an idea that Ms. Randall strongly supports, Ms. Zahn said. But they cautioned that the concept would not work without increased funding and study, and noted that any state requirement should allow for district flexibility.

The issue of strengthening graduation requirements received mixed reviews. While some panelists said they favored tougher requirements, others said students need adequate time to spend with their families; they also warned that students who are unable to meet current requirements may be excluded.

The panelists also agreed strongly that teachers need more time to plan, more inservice-training opportunities, smaller class sizes, and more opportunities to work individually with students, according to Ms. Zahn.

Governor Sets Up

Schools Commission

In Connecticut

Gov. William O’Neill of Connecticut plans to form a “Citizens Commission on Equity and Excellence in Education” to respond to the series of recommendations on schooling made by the State Board of Education over the past several years and to propose specific initiatives for the session of the General Assembly that begins next January.

The commission should be officially formed and charged within the next week, according to David McQuad, Governor O’Neill’s administrative aide.

Mr. McQuad said the commission will focus on some “controversial” education proposals that the legislature did not act on this year, such as improving teachers’ salaries, mandating all-day kindergarten, lengthening the school year, and increasing teacher-certification requirements.

No action will be taken on any of these measures until the commission reports back to the Governor and the legislature, he said.

Last January, the state board adopted a proposal from Education Commissioner Gerald N. Tirozzi that asked the Governor to establish a citizens’ commission to study teachers’ salaries, said Lise Heintz, spokesman for the State Department of Education.

The Governor’s office has since expanded the scope of that commission, Ms. Heintz said.

Although Connecticut has had a number of task forces on education in recent years--focused on topics ranging from preschool programs to the certification of teachers--no one task force has looked at the full spectrum of educational issues, she said.

A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 1984 edition of Education Week as States News Roundup