State News Roundup
For the fourth straight year, errors in computing state education aid for Connecticut cities and towns have resulted in overpayments to large cities, while municipalities with fewer welfare recipients were shortchanged.
During the current fiscal year, the errors amounted to about $1.25 million, out of a total state-aid budget of $306 million. About 1 percent of this year's distributed funds had to be adjusted after the mistake was discovered in a March audit. Last year, the mistakes totaled about $29.2 million, Mark R. Shedd, state commissioner of education, has admitted.
The department used misleading welfare statistics in computing municipal grants. Under the state's equalization formula, the department should have included the number of welfare recipients living in each community between the ages of 5 and 18 but has instead included all recipients up to the age of 21.
Accordingly, too little state aid has been distributed to Connecticut's wealthier towns, while too much has gone to communities with high concentrations of welfare recipients.
Gubernatorial candidates have seized on the issue, demanding that Gov. William A. O'Neill order separate investigations into the affair. However, neither the legislature's education committee nor the department of education has indicated that such an inquiry will be conducted.
The Alabama Board of Education has taken a major step toward separating the operations of its elementary and secondary schools from those of the state's two-year colleges.
Ten candidates were selected this month to interview for the newly created position of chancellor of the colleges. Currently, the state superintendent of education is the chief administrative officer for elementary and secondary schools and for the junior and technical colleges.
Under the new plan, which was approved this spring by the legislature, the chancellor and superintendent will have equal status, with each answering directly to the state board of education.
In September, Superintendent Wayne Teague had suggested that the college division be headed by a chancellor who would report to the board through him. But Gov. Forrest H. (Fob) James, along with many legislators, pressed for the creation of the higher-ranking position.
Governor James said that the new system will enable Mr. Teague to concentrate on the elementary and secondary schools, while the chancellor can more closely supervise Alabama's 47 junior, technical, and community colleges.
Private-school students are entitled to the same transportation services as public-school students, the Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled.
The state's highest court affirmed a Lancaster County circuit court ruling, which was appealed by the Lincoln city school board. The parents of John Bouc, a 6-year-old private-school pupil, had asked the Lincoln board to let the boy board a public school bus on a route near the family's home.
The Bouc family moved from the city last year--a fact that, the Lincoln board maintained, made the case moot. But the court observed that the issue is still of public interest and should be decided.
Transportation for private-school students does not violate constitutional or statutory provisions for separation of church and state and does not constitute direct aid to a church, the court said.
"Any benefit that may [come] to the nonprofit private institution is merely incidental," the court said, adding that transportation of private-school students falls into the same category as fire protection and other safety measures that benefit all residents.
Ellen Stuart, president of the Lin-coln school board, said that the decision "may have a dramatic impact" on the district's $1-million transportation budget if more private-school students request rides on public-school vehicles.
Private-school officials noted that many of Nebraska's smaller school districts already provide transportation for private-school pupils.
Meanwhile, a group of parochial-school parents in Maryland has filed suit demanding that the state and five local jurisdictions provide transportation for their children.
The parents, who call their group Transport All Children to School, claim that their children are entitled to public transportation because they pay taxes and comply with the state's compulsory-attendance laws. Because all the plaintiffs have children in church-affiliated schools, they are basing their claim in part on constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.
Twelve Maryland jurisdictions have local laws allowing public school buses to pick up private-school students as long as the buses do not have to deviate from their usual routes. But the plaintiffs assert that transportation is actually provided in only a few counties.
The Alabama board of education has not--repeat not--eliminated the Alabama Initial Teacher Certification Testing Program, and if anyone planning to take the test on June 26 thought he would be able to go on a picnic instead, he was wrong.
The rumor that the teacher-testing program had been waived by the board grew from an item that the board really did discuss at its May 25 meeting: whether to continue issuing temporary certificates to people who have not met the test requirement, but who otherwise qualify for teaching positions.
The board decided to continue the practice and amended the measure so that under extenuating circumstances, the state superintendent could continue this temporary certification for a second year.
But a reporter from a major wire service who covered the meeting misunderstood, and "wrote the wrong story," according to a spokesman for the state education department. As a result, newspapers all over the state received a story saying that the board had voted to eliminate the teacher-competency test--probably an attractive notion to some prospective teachers.
Subsequently, Wayne Teague, the state superintendent of education, issued a memorandum to all state, local, and university educators. The same memo was sent to education writers and editors--presumably including the one who had made the error in the first place.
All appears to be straightened out now, but, noted one state education official, "You would not believe the chaos this has caused."
The Utah school board has accepted Charles M. Bernardo's decision declining its offer to serve as the new state superintendent and has appointed instead G. Leland Burningham, currently the superintendent of the Weber County, Utah, public schools.
Mr. Burningham, 51 years old, has served in Utah's public schools for all but three years of his career as an educator, which began in 1952. He is also chairman of the board of the Far West Regional Laboratory.
Not more than five weeks ago, however, the state board appointed Mr. Bernardo, despite the fact that in 1979 he was forced to resign as superintendent in Montgomery County, Md., because of conflicts with the school board and teachers.
Jay A. Monson, chairman of the state school board, said that there was an erosion of confidence in Mr. Bernardo's suitability for the position, and that there apparently was an erosion of desire on Mr. Bernardo's part to accept the position. If Mr. Bernardo had not declined the ap-pointment, Mr. Monson said, the board probably would have reconsidered the appointment.
Mr. Monson said that Mr. Bernardo's decision to decline the appointment "seemed best for the good of the public school system in Utah."
The organizers of job-training programs are often frustrated by their inability to predict the demand for workers and to train students accordingly.
But the Illinois State Board of Education, using projections from the State Chamber of Commerce and from local employers, has been able to respond quickly to many of the job openings that are occurring in that economically depressed state.
So far during the current fiscal year, the state board's High Impact Training Services program has provided trained employees for more than 1,400 new jobs across the state.
Currently, the job-training program is available only to businesses and industries that are able to offer new jobs. Businesses may request that a certain number of workers be trained in a given field; local high schools, community colleges, and area vocational centers then recruit and train students to meet the businesses' needs.
Local education agencies, upon receiving such a request from a local business, may apply to the state for training grants.
"hits is an excellent example of how educators and leaders of business and industry are working together to improve Illinois's economic climate," said Donald G. Gill, state superintendent of education.