State News Roundup

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Marking the first major change in 50 years in the state's attendance-reporting system, the Alabama education department has announced that teachers will begin using the new "streamlined" reporting system next fall.

State officials estimate that the old register system, which was 120 pages long, took each teacher about one hour per month to complete. "The annual equivalent of 317 teachers was being expended in filling out the old attendance registers," state officials reported.

Much of the streamlining was accomplished by abolishing some of the information that was contained in the register. The old attendance register required teachers to collect information on the child's parents' occupations, his or her immunization history, and whether the child had received instruction in the kind and humane treatment of animals. The system had been in use since 1932.

Tested and received well this year in one county school system, the new attendance register will be in place in all of Alabama's public schools when they reopen in the fall.

A recently announced pilot program in Florida will put foreign-language classes in places they are seldom found: elementary schools.

For the 1982-1983 school year, each of 15 school districts and the University of Florida's laboratory school will receive a share of the $1.2 million appropriated by the legislature this year to provide for teachers' salaries and instructional materials for the program. The state funds will be matched by the districts on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

Florida education officials believe that the state is the first to establish a statewide program to encourage and support foreign-language instruction in the elementary grades.

First there were tempests in teapots; now there are imbroglios over bathtubs.

In Ottawa, Kan., a fire-engine red tub decorated with pictures of Snoopy is at the center of a contract dispute between the superintendent of schools and the local National Education Association affiliate.

The matter began last August when the tub--which Christine Higgins let her students read in, of-ten as a reward for good behavior--disappeared from Ms. Higgins's 4th-grade classroom.

Ms. Higgins asked the school district for $100 to replace the tub; instead, the district offered her a replacement, which she found unacceptable. "I never did see [the replacement]," she said. "I spent hours on this tub and I was not going to use another. [The principal] wouldn't even talk to me about finding out where it went."

Ms. Higgins filed grievances with her principal, with the local school superintendent, and with the school board, but the board refused to hold a hearing on the matter.

Ms. Higgins, backed by the Ottawa Education Association, said her contract right to file any grievance without interference from the superintendent was violated.

In December she took the principal to small-claims court and lost. (A few days later the tub appeared on her back step, where it still sits.)

Then the association filed a breach-of-contract suit against the school board in district court. That suit was eventually dropped.

Most recently, the association has filed a "prohibited-practice" complaint with the state department of human resources. "What we want is a written statement to all principals that every grievance will be heard," Ms. Higgins said.

Ms. Higgins, who now teaches 6th grade in a different school in the same district, said she will not return the tub to the classroom because it is inappropriate for 6th graders. She does, however, have a reading sofa.

An unmarried teacher, who had been suspended by the Glades County, Fla., school superintendent last January because she was pregnant, will receive back pay with interest in return for giving up her claim to her job.

The Glades County school board decided to attempt a compromise in the job dispute between the untenured physical-education teacher and the superintendent because of a recent appellate-court ruling that the dismissal of an unwed teacher due to pregnancy violated her Constitutional rights, according to John M. Potter, lawyer for the Glades County school board.

The county's school superintendent, Lester Mensch, had recommended that the board dismiss Winifred Hyatt, a teacher at Moore Haven Junior-Senior High School, because she would not be a proper role model for students.

The superintendent, according to Mr. Potter, also said that the teacher's behavior was "immoral," that she had brought "notoriety" and "discredit" to the school community, and had "interrupted students' academic pursuits by the admission of extramarital sex."

Whether board members agreed with the superintendent or not, they decided that the ambiguous legal issues "made it quicker and cheaper for everyone" to settle the matter, he added.

"It's been quite a controversy in the community and a strain for everyone involved. It all boils down to the fact that our little school district couldn't afford to follow up a Constitutional question."

In an April ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the dismissal of an unwed, pregnant teacher was unlawful under the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Mr. Potter said that ruling raises questions about "local standards'' and whether a community's elected representatives should be free to decide questions of morality. Teachers, he added, have always been held to a high standard of conduct.

Mr. Potter estimates that Ms. Hyatt will receive more than $3,500 in return for relinquishing "any right she might have had" to pursue the matter.

Although most Illinois school districts may not see large cuts in state aid, it appears unlikely that they will have much of an increase in the next fiscal year, either.

The Illinois House of Representatives has approved $2.148 billion for elementary and secondary schools--$48 million over the budget recommended by Gov. James R. Thompson, but $65 million short of the amount sought by the state board of education.

That appropriation appears headed for a Senate-House conference committee as the legislative session nears its June 30 deadline.

Senate Republicans have indicated that they would like to scale back the budget by about $13 million to equal this year's level of support.

And Democrats, who control the Senate by one vote, have suggested that more money be allocated to general aid and less to categorical programs such as special education.

The House-approved measure would support most special-education programs at 98 percent of eligible claims and would reimburse districts for other required programs at about 80 cents on the dollar.

Maxwell L. (Max) Rafferty Jr., former state superintendent of public instruction in California, died last week in an automobile accident in Alabama.

Mr. Rafferty, known as an outspoken conservative on such issues as the teaching of patriotism and morality, teachers' strikes, and busing for desegregation, served as California's chief state school officer from 1963 to 1971. Since leaving that post, he had served as dean of education at Troy State University in Alabama.

A native of New Orleans, he began his career in education as a teacher and athletic director in southern California, working his way up to the positions of principal and district superintendent before his election to the state superintendency.

Mr. Rafferty, whose term coincided with the first four years of Ronald Reagan's tenure as Governor of California, had been appointed last month to the Reagan Administration's Advisory Panel on Financing Elementary and Secondary Education.

Vol. 01, Issue 39

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