State News Roundup
New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean has signed a law that requires public-school employees who witness violence to file written reports with their school principals.
The legislation calls for each of the reports to be included in an annual statewide study on violence in the public schools. The study will be published by the state's commissioner of education.
"The problem of violence and vandalism in the schools has to be addressed and there has to be accountability," said John F. Holtz, a spokesman for Raymond J. Lesniak, the Democratic assemblyman who sponsored the bill.
The law also prohibits school boards from discriminating against, or firing, employees who file the violence reports.
"Too often, reported incidents of violence are covered up and buried by principals and superintendents who do not want their schools to get a bad reputation," Mr. Holtz said. "We've also found teachers who have been made to feel like tattletales--by their peers and by administrators--for reporting things."
A governor's task force in Indiana has made legislative recommendations intended to bring more academically able teachers into the public-school classrooms, and thus improve education in the state.
"There may be problems with Indiana's educational system as evidenced by the high unemployment rates for Indiana youth and by the relatively low percentage of Indiana public-school graduates who enter or graduate from college," the committee concluded.
The group recommended that the state should:
Offer loans for exceptional candidates who are willing to teach subjects where shortages of teachers have been identified, and respond to these shortages by providing grants for the retraining of current teachers;
Establish a training program for teachers and students in the use of computers and programming concepts; and
Expand programs for the gifted and talented.
Gov. Robert D. Orr has said he is not sure if the state's 1983 legislature would provide the funding needed to implement the proposals.
Commissioner of Education Saul Cooperman has announced changes in New Jersey's controversial, seven-year-old "thorough and efficient" education law.
Under the new system, the state education department will spend less time monitoring school systems and focus instead on ensuring that they set clear learning objectives, Mr. Cooperman said.
The commissioner will appoint a committee to define the objectives of the state's schools. By next September, each school system will have submitted a detailed set of goals to one of New Jersey's 21 county superintendents, who will be trained to help the school systems plan.
Each school system will also be required to make its plan public at a school-board meeting.
The county superintendents will evaluate, in writing, the perform-ance of every school system during the next two years. The local districts will be required to read and discuss the evaluation publicly.
Those school systems that are found to be meeting their objectives will not, as is now the case, be monitored annually. Instead, they will be reviewed every five years.
Under the new plan, the state education department will focus its resources on helping those districts that are failing to meet their educational obligations.
"The state should get out of the way of school systems doing the things that are necesssary for good education," Mr. Cooperman told a recent meeting of the state's board of education. "Let's not create more reports and take more of their time."
But he also said that the state would consider filing suit against, or cutting off of state aid to, those districts that continually fail to meet the goals they set for themselves.
As part of a campaign promise to promote economic development and tourism in Minnesota, Governor-elect Rudy G. Perpich is asking local officials to consider amending the school-year calendar to accommodate families' vacation plans.
In letters sent last week to local school superintendents, Mr. Perpich said that he would like the school calendar to begin after Labor Day and end before Memorial Day, according to Terry Montgomery, a member of Mr. Perpich's transition team.
Mr. Montgomery said that the letters represent only a request and not a demand. He said Mr. Perpich's only objective is to allow students to vacation with their families.
By law, students in the state are required to attend school a minimum of 175 days. School calendars are set by each local school board, according to a spokesman for the state department of education.