September 05, 1990 5 min read

Two members of the Boston City Council have submitted proposals to ask voters to change the makeup of the Boston School Committee, which has come under increasing fire for its handling of its budget and its search for a new superintendent.

The proposals reopen an issue that was before the voters last fall, when a proposal to create an appointed school committee under the authority of Mayor Raymond L. Flynn was narrowly approved in a nonbinding referendum. But the mayor backed away from plans to proceed with legislation because the measure was soundly defeated in low-income neighborhoods. (See Education Week, Nov. 15, 1989.)

A proposal filed recently by City Councilor Michael C. McCormack would ask voters in a binding referendum to choose between retaining the current 13-member elected committee and replacing it with a seven-member board appointed by the mayor.

Another council member, Bruce C. Bolling, has filed a proposal that would create a seven-member elected board with fiscal authority independent of the council and the mayor.

The full City Council must still approve the proposals, which would then require the approval of the mayor, state legislature, and governor before they could be put to voters in November.

The Kansas City (Mo.) school board has voted to increase its property-tax levy by 24 percent to pay employee-salary increases as part of the district’s ongoing desegregation case.

The board voted 8 to 1 in late August to raise the levy for the 1990-91 and 1991-92 school years from $4 per $100 of assessed valuation to $4.96.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that a federal judge had the power to order the district to raise taxes in order to fund its share of a half-billion-dollar desegregation remedy. (See Education Week, April 25, 1990.)

The federal government has appealed a ruling by a U.S. district judge to dismiss a desegregation suit against the Charleston County, S.C., schools.

In June, Judge Sol Blatt Jr. dismissed the nine-year-old suit, which alleged that the district avoided integration in 1967 by consolidating the county’s eight small school districts into one countywide district. (See Education Week, June 20, 1990.)

The appeal, filed this summer by the U.S. Justice Department and black plaintiffs, will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The case was one of only two school-desegregation cases prosecuted in the federal courts during the Reagan Administration.

The Texas Textbook Committee has unanimously recommended that the state adopt a videodisk-based elementary-science curriculum as an alternative to traditional text-based materials.

If the state board of education upholds the committee’s decision, Texas would become the first state to adopt a videodisk-based curriculum as an alternative to textbooks.

The board is expected to make a final decision on Nov. 10.

If the decision is upheld, school districts will be allowed to spend state funds to purchase the “Windows on Science” curriculum developed by the Optical Data Corporation of Warren N.J.

Such a move would likely serve to make schools more willing to experiment with the technology, industry experts said. And because Texas is one of the largest markets for textbooks in the nation, the decision could have wide-ranging effects the educational publishing market. (See Education Week, Jan. 17, 1990.)

Mississippi school districts have been cleared to renegotiate 99-year leases of public lands after the state’s supreme court last month refused to reconsider a 1989 decision voiding the agreements.

School boards, which took control of “school trust” lands in 1978, already have renegotiated more than half of the 4,900 leases, which have been termed “giveaways,” because the agreements generated less than 50 cents per acre over their 99-year term. (See Education Week, Nov. 1, 1989.)

At the time of last month’s action, 2,438 such leases remained, according to Bob Lyle, assistant secretary of state for policy development.

More than 60 percent of the remaining leases are in Columbus, where a separate legal challenge focuses on legislation specifically covering leases in that city.

The “giveaway” leases were initiated by county boards, which supervised the trust properties before 1978. Over the past 10 years, the renegotiated leases have increased income for school-improvement projects from $4.6 million in 1980 to $10.1 million this year, according to the secretary of state’s office.

The legal battle over a K-8 school that straddles the Indiana-Ohio border endast month when the district superintendent on the Ohio side decided not to challenge a federal appeals-court decision supporting the unusual venture.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 12th Circuit this summer held that the College Corner district is a legal district even though it does not have a high school. The school, which enrolls some 400 students, has been the subject of controversy since 1988, when the Indiana members of the joint school board that governs the district, together with state officials on both sides, made attempts to close the school to Ohio students. (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1989.)

The College Corner board, consisting of seven Indiana and five Ohio representatives, spent nearly $120,000 in legal fees during the two-year effort to keep the school open.

Six Florida counties will continue traditional nonpartisan school-board elections after a ruling this summer by the state’s supreme court supporting the practice.

The July 27 ruling permitting nonpartisan school-board races follows a ruling last year in which the supreme court abolished the practice in Martin County. (See Education Week, March 28, 1990.)

The July ruling made local circuit courts responsible for reviewing the practice in five counties: Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Palm Beach, and Seminole. Duval County’s nonpartisan school-board elections are held under a special constitutional exemption.

Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said the court’s decision sets clear guidelines for counties wanting to establish the nonpartisan elections. Of the seven counties with nonpartisan elections at the time of the original court ruling, only Martin County now requires candidates to declare their party affiliation.

A California Superior Court judge has dismissed all child-molestation charges against Raymond Buckey, the former McMartin Preschool teacher.

It was the second mistrial for Mr. Buckey; in January, he and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, had been acquitted of 52 charges of child molestation. (See Education Week, Jan. 24, 1990.) Prosecutors later decided to re-try Mr. Buckey on charges of molesting three female students of the school. The jury this summer declared itself deadlocked, and the prosecutors dropped the charges.

The case has been termed the longest criminal trial in U.S. history, and one that cost taxpayers an estimated $13.5 million.

A version of this article appeared in the September 05, 1990 edition of Education Week as Update