States News

September 06, 1989 6 min read

Residents of unorganized school districts in Arizona, including retirement communities, cannot be taxed under a 1988 law to pay for precollegiate education, a county judge has ruled.

Judge William T. Moroney ruled that the tax was illegal because it raised more money than was necessary to pay for the education of children who live in unorganized districts. The tax raised $10 million, compared with the $2.5 million needed for the students’ education; the rest went to the state.

The law required residents of unorganized districts, most of whom live in retirement communities, to pay school taxes of 50 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 1988, with the tax increasing by 50 cents a year until it reached $4.72 in 1996.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers lowered the maximum rate for taxpayers in the unorganized districts to $2.36, and made them eligible for a rebate that would have lowered the effective rate to $1.04.

Kenneth Larkin, president of the Sun City Taxpayers Association, which filed the suit that led to the ruling, said his group may also challenge the 1989 tax law.

Black high-school students are less likely than white students to drink liquor, or use tobacco or marijuana, a survey of all of Alabama’s 7th-, 9th-, and 11th-grade public-school students reveals.

The survey, which polled more than 140,000 students about drug, tobacco, and alcohol usage, is believed to be the largest study of its kind. It found that during the three months before the survey, 89 percent of the black 11th-grade students, but only 68 percent of their white peers, said they had not smoked a cigarette.

Nine out of ten black juniors said they had not smoked marijuana, and 61 percent said they had not drunk any beer, during the same period. The figures for white students were 84 percent and 54 percent, respectively.

The survey, which state education officials said they hope to conduct yearly in a more limited form, found that students who had a later curfew and were less involved in church, family, or extracurricular activities were more likely to report more use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.

Bilingual-education students in New York State will be able to remain longerlasses taught in their native language, the board of regents has decided.

The state will spend an extra $3.2 million this year to compensate school districts that voluntarily extend their programs to students who previously had scored too high on a standardized English competency test to qualify for state funds.

Under the old rules, bilingual students could be put into regular classes if they scored higher than the bottom 23 percent of all students taking the English test. The new rules allow districts to raise the cutoff point to 40 percent.

Ohio voters defeated a record high proportion of school issues in elections last month, denying 25 of the 29 funding requests made in 25 districts.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Franklin B. Walter said the 13.8 percent approval rate was the lowest of any regular or special election since the state education department began keeping records in 1962.

Calling the election results “discouraging,” Mr. Walter said, “These were not requests for frills. Most of the districts sought local support to continue school operations--to pay utility bills and to buy new textbooks.”

Robert L. Moore, assistant superintendent of public instruction, said many voters may have believed that a reformed state education budget passed this summer had satisfied their local school-funding needs.

A permanent, 10-member interagency council has been created to oversee New York State’s troubled vocational-rehabilitation programs, Gov. Mario M.Cuomo has announced.

In an effort to identify duplications and gaps in services, the council will review the counseling and job-training services provided to handicapped people by several state agencies.

The move represented a compromise between Mr. Cuomo and state school officials, who have been haggling over control of the programs for several years. State vocational-rehabilitation services are now under the education department, but the Governor wanted to create a separate agency to oversee those programs as well as services for the visually handicapped.

Children attending home schools in Michigan must be taught by certified teachers, a state appeals court has ruled.

Two families who taught their children at home argued that the state law violated their right to religious freedom because their religion forbids them to submit their children’s education to state authority. The children’s truancy convictions were upheld by the appeals court last month.

The court acknowledged that the law places a burden on the defendants’ right to free exercise of religion. “However, we found the burden minimal when compared with the state’s compelling interest that high quality education be afforded our children,” the ruling said.

David A. Kallman, a lawyer for one of the families, said the case will be appealed to the state supreme court.

Teacher-education programs in Florida will undergo a three-year curriculum review and reauthorization, the state board of regents has decided.

The regents last month approved a plan designed to prepare teachers to meet the high standards to be set by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. By 1993, the board plans to certify teachers in 29 educational fields.

The plan states that teacher-preparation programs should include more instruction in effective methods of teaching mathematics and science; increased emphasis on using instructional technology; and more information on school restructuring, working with at-risk students, and communicating with parents.

In addition, to meet guidelines adopted by the regents in 1988, each state university will set goals for minority enrollment in colleges of education.

Elena Scambio, superintendent of the Essex County, N.J., schools, has been nominated to head the Jersey City school system if a state-operated district is created this fall.

Saul A. Cooperman, the state superintendent, last month announced the nomination of Ms. Scambio, who is also the coordinating county superintendent for the state’s northern region.

State officials continue to expand their control of the troubled district’s operations while awaiting a decision by the assistant commissioner and the state board of education on whether to stage a full takeover of Jersey City schools.

Citing mismanagement, corruption, and cronyism in the district, an administrative-law judge recommended in June that the state take control of the system under the 1988 “academic bankruptcy law.” (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1989.)

Jersey City school board members voted in July not to file any formal objections to the judge’s recommendations.

Ms. Scambio has overseen the state’s partial control over the district’s personnel and fiscal operations since last year. If the state board backs her nomination and the takeover is approved, Ms. Scambio will lead the state transition teams that will replace the district’s current administration.

Requiring school boards to appoint members of religious organizations to panels that make recommendations on aids education is unconstitutional, the New York State School Boards Association has contended in a lawsuit.

A state regulation that went into effect last year requires school boards to appoint aids-advisory councils that contain at least one clergyman or other member of a religious organization.

But Jay Worona, the group’s deputy counsel and director of litigation services, said the mandate violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against state establishment of religion because school boards must determine which religious groups will be represented on the councils.

The Education of the Handicapped Act does not permit a school district to sue to force a state to provide services for severely handicapped children, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A state ultimately may be held liable for such services, however, if the family of a handicapped child sued to obtain the services and the local district could show that the state was responsible, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled last month.

The ruling by a three-j

A version of this article appeared in the September 06, 1989 edition of Education Week as States News