States News Roundup
Pennsylvania voters in this month's election decisively rejected a proposal that would have increased pension benefits for spouses of deceased teachers and other school workers belonging to the state's Public School Employee Retirement System.
The measure would have allowed the legislature to grant cost-of-living increases and other benefits to the survivors of school employees covered by the system. The state's two major teachers' organizations had campaigned vigorously for its passage.
Education for gifted students in Tennessee got a boost this month with a $20,000 federal grant for Project pivot, a program that will allow one representative from each school system in the state to attend 10 days of specialized training in instruction for the gifted.
Project pivot--which stands for Professional Inservice for Very Outstanding Teachers--was conceived to meet what State Commissioner of Education Robert L. McElrath described as the "very crucial need" for teacher training in education for the gifted. The training sessions, which will take place at selected teacher centers throughout the state, will be conducted by 16 consultants in the field of education for the gifted.
The program, however, will not end with the training sessions; those who attend the inservice program will share the information upon returning to their districts. Participating systems will receive a manual based on material from the sessions. The project will also be the basis for a model program for training teachers of the gifted.
"Research shows that trained teachers are able to provide for the needs of gifted children at a minimal cost to the local school system," said Barbara Russell, state specialist for gifted and talented and the originator of the project.
Students enrolled in vocational- and adult-education programs in Nebraska are likely to be hurt the most by a 3-percent cut in the operating budgets of most state agencies, Education Commissioner Anne Campbell says. The budget reductions went into effect early last week.
General state aid to schools for operations and tax-levy reductions, however, will not be affected by the cuts, Ms. Campbell said.
Approximately $200,000 in aid earmarked for the two programs was sliced from the state's budget during an eight-day special legislative session that ended on Nov. 7. Gov. Charles Thone ordered state legislators back to Lincoln on Oct. 30 because it appeared that state expenditures for the current fiscal year would exceed expected revenues by about $25 million.
The state lawmakers adopted all but $1 million of the budget adjustments that Governor Thone had recommended in his original budget-balancing plan. About $10 million of the state's predicted revenue shortfall was caused by recent federal tax cuts because the state income tax is tied to a fixed percentage of the federal income tax.
A district court judge in Nevada has ruled that the state board of education is not obligated to provide special-education programs for mentally retarded children under 3 years of age, even though it offers such programs for hearing and visually impaired children in that age group.
Henry W. Cavallera, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the lawsuit was filed last year by the parents of three mentally retarded children on the grounds that the state's failure to offer special-education programs violated the equal protection clause of Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The suit also cited two state laws that provide funds for special-education programs to districts without adequate resources.
Judge Michael Griffin, however, dismissed the case on the grounds that "education is not a fundamental right," according to Mr. Cavallera. He said the plaintiffs had not decided whether to appeal the ruling to the State Supreme Court.
The postmaster in St. Albans, Vt., has regained his seat on the board of trustees for the city's high school two and a half years after his appointment was annulled because of his religious affiliation.
But Stanley Beauregard may have to wait until next spring before officially returning to office, since the Vermont Supreme Court has refused to let him serve while lawyers for the Bellows Free Academy appeal the Superior Court order restoring his authority.
The public high school was established by the estate of Hiram Bellows, who directed in his will that each of the five board members be of a different religious faith. Mr. Beauregard, who would have become the second Catholic trustee serving a five-year term, declined to state his religion when he was named to the board by the City Council in 1979. His appointment was vetoed by then-Mayor Joseph Montcalm.
Following Mr. Beauregard's dismissal, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Academy, the city and town of St. Albans, and the state. In late August, Superior Court Judge Thomas L. Hayes declared that Mr. Beauregard's constitutional rights had been violated.
The Supreme Court last month ordered a stay of the decision pending the outcome of an appeal by the school district.
Vol. 01, Issue 11