State News Roundup

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In order to penalize students who intentionally fail to return borrowed textbooks and other school property, the California Assembly recently passed a bill allowing school districts to withhold students' grades, diplomas, or transcripts until they pay for the property.

Currently, school districts in the state can use such penalties when students damage property, but not when it is reported lost or when the students simply fail to return it.

Assemblyman Thomas Hannigan introduced the bill with a requirement for a refundable book deposit of $20 per semester, but the Assembly's education committee removed that provision.

The bill, which now awaits reading in the Senate, allows parents or pupils who are unable to pay for damaged or lost books to compensate by doing volunteer work for the district.

The nomination of Ronald H. Lewis as New Jersey's commissioner of education was withheld last week following allegations that he plagiarized parts of his doctoral thesis.

Gov. Thomas H. Kean has announced that his staff will investigate assertions made by The Star-Ledger of Newark that Mr. Lewis, currently deputy secretary of education in Pennsylvania, copied from other sources, verbatim and without attribution, about half the 121-page Ph.D. thesis he submitted to Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1973.

Mr. Lewis, whose nomination was scheduled to be forwarded to the New Jersey Senate last week, has said the thesis was written for a nontraditional doctoral program created by the university in 1971 to allow working professionals to keep their jobs while earning their degrees.

Mr. Lewis has said there was no intent to take credit for work that was not his.

The thesis was written on New Jersey's Office of Urban Education. Mr. Lewis received his doctoral degree after less than two years of part-time study.

The university established a five-member committee last week to review Mr. Lewis's thesis. It will have the power to recommend revocation of the degree.

The Education Committee of the California Assembly has approved a bill requiring that parents be notified if their children leave a school campus to seek an abortion.

Assemblyman Don Sebastiani deleted a provision requiring notification to parents when children visit health clinics to obtain birth-control devices.

In testimony before the Assembly's subcommittee on education reform, a representative of the Planned Parenthood Federation said that requiring the notification would deter many teenagers from seeking help.

The bill is now on the Assembly floor.

The battle of the education budget in New York has claimed a victim: the state's high-school equivalency test.

Gov. Hugh L. Carey wants the approximately 100,000 people who take the test each year to pay a $10 fee. But the legislature, with the support of the state's education department, appropriated $610,000 to keep the test free.

The Governor vetoed the equivalency-testing item along with $900 million in other education appropriations on April 12.

As a result, no equivalency tests have been given in the state since April 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.

The state education department has contended that many people who take the tests are in lower income brackets and that a fee would burden them unfairly.

Wyoming voters will be asked to consider a constitutional amendment later this year that would change the way the public schools in the state are financed.

The proposed constitutional amendment was recommended by a "select committee" appointed two years ago by the state legislature at the direction of the Wyoming su-preme court, according to Melvin H. Gillispie, assistant superintendent in the state department of education.

The legislature accepted the committee's recommendation for correcting the financial disparities among school districts during the legislative session that ended in February.

Mr. Gillispie said the proposed constitutional amendment would increase the state tax for educational programs from six mills to 12 mills, while reducing the county tax from 12 mills to six mills, thus decreasing schools' reliance on local property wealth.

In addition, the proposed amendment would require that the state claim any local tax revenue that exceeds 75 percent the statewide average, according to Mr. Gillispie.

Two-thirds of the voters in November's general elections must approve the constitutional amendment for it to take effect, the state official said.

Vol. 01, Issue 34

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