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A Senate Judiciary subcommittee abruptly cancelled a recent hearing to mark up a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow prayer in public schools after Reagan Administration officials objected to a plan to change its wording.

According to staff members on the Subcommittee on the Constitution, several senators on the panel would like to modify the language of the proposal, SJ Res. 73, in a manner that would allow silent prayer and equal access to school property for student religious groups.

The Administration-drafted amendment reads: "Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer."

Constitutional scholars who have testified before the subcommittee have warned that such language could open the way for states to mandate the reading of government-drafted prayers, thus endangering the constitutionality of the proposed amendment. The substitute language under consideration, they continued, stands a better chance of passing constitutional muster.

The subcommittee staff members said the Administration asked for additional time to discuss the proposed changes with the senators. The subcommittee had not resched-uled the mark-up session as of late last week.

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recently announced that they would seek appeals in two separate, but related lawsuits involving the constitutionality of racially-motivated teacher layoffs.

The aft, on behalf of its Boston affiliate, announced last week that it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its decision of last October not to hear a case involving the layoff of more than 1,000 white teachers in the city.

Meanwhile, spokesmen for the naacp said the organization would ask the full five-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to rehear a case involving the layoff of white teachers in Kalamazoo, Mich.

In the Boston case, Boston Teachers Union v. Boston School Committee, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that a federal district judge had the right to order the school district to furlough senior white teachers in order to preserve the jobs of recently hired black teachers. In the Kalamazoo case, Oliver v. Kalamazoo Board of Education, a three-member panel of the Sixth Circuit Court reached the opposite conclusion.

The aft is backing the more senior white teachers in both cases. The naacp is representing black teachers in the cases.

The shortage of qualified mathematics teachers is indeed jeopardizing the education of American children, but according to a new position paper issued by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, short and limited retraining programs will only make the situation worse.

Although sympathetic to the plight of districts unable to find qualified teachers, the council urges them to adhere to its existing standards for teacher training.

Those standards, published in 1981, outline a relatively rigorous curriculum for those intending to teach mathematics.

The curriculum would include for junior-high-school mathematics teachers, for example, three or four years of high-school-level mathematics and one semester-long college-level course in calculus, trigonometry, geometry, computer science, abstract algebra, probability and statistics, and methods of mathematics teaching.

In contrast, the council notes, many of the retraining programs "set their standards far below" the levels recommended. The programs also tend to "suggest that the retraining necessary can be accomplished in exceedingly short periods of time and with limited attention to the need for relevant, up-to-date course content."

State News Roundup

Education Week
Volume 2, Issue 36, June 1, 1983, pp 2-3

Copyright 1983, Editorial Projects in Education, Inc.

State News Roundup

The city's "commitment to academic excellence" was a major factor in the decision of a consortium of 12 high-technology and research firms to choose Austin, Tex., as a home. The firms will soon bring at least 200 new "high-tech" families into the Austin Independent School District.

"We're really thrilled," said a district spokesman, adding that the new consortium will raise the district's tax base and bring students of "high motivation" into the schools.

Retired Admiral Bobby Inman, chairman of the new consortium, Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp., said the families employed by the company will be looking for high-quality education in the Austin schools, and he urged increased state support for the public-school system.

Mr. Inman is a graduate of the University of Texas. The university, the local chamber of commerce, Texas A&M University, and city officials cooperated to attract the research consortium to Austin. San Diego, Atlanta, and Research Triangle Park, N.C. were also seeking to attract the firm.

The majority leader of Maine's House of Representatives, taking her cue from the federal government, recently announced that she would introduce legislation seeking the creation of a blue-ribbon panel to investigate the condition of education in the state.

"Our once-revered system of education is not producing the tools or the motivation necessary to help our young people realize their full potential," said Representative Elizabeth H. Mitchell, majority leader of the state House of Representatives, in announcing her proposal for a Maine Commission on Excellence in Education.

The proposed 21-member commission would be given until Jan. 31, 1984, to compile a list of recommendations for Gov. Joseph E. Brennan and the state legislature, she said.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, speaking recently at a church in Lincoln, Neb., suggested one way to resolve the continuing controversy over state regulation of private schools that has resulted in several lengthy legal disputes in the state.

Mr. Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority, said children in private schools should be tested and the results reported to the state. "If the tests show these children are not being educated," he said, "then [the state] should come down on these schools."

This method, he said, would satisfy the state interest that children in these schools are receiving a high-quality education.

New York State's commissioner of education, Gordon M. Ambach, has upheld a Long Island public-school system's ban on the distribution of religious literature in its schools.

Stephen P. Rathjen, a resident of the Brentwood Union Free School District, was told by district officials last fall that he would not be permitted to hand out religious literature to high-school students.

Mr. Ambach said that Mr. Rathjen's appeal of the school board's decision was too late, since it was made more than 30 days after the district's ruling. The commissioner added that "schools are not public places in the sense that their use may be demanded as a matter of right by an individual."

Mr. Rathjen, who distributed materials outside Brentwood schools before he was turned down by officials, argued that he had a right to distribute material in any public place, including a school.

City News Roundup

Education Week
Volume 2, Issue 36, June 1, 1983, p 3

Copyright 1983, Editorial Projects in Education, Inc.

City News Roundup

Joining two other northern California school boards, the San Francisco Board of Education voted last week to reject the chapter of a federal curriculum that tells students how to respond to the "emergency" of nuclear attack.

With only one dissenting vote, the seven-member board voted not to use the Federal Emergency Management Agency's chapter on survival after a nuclear attack because it implies that nuclear war is less destructive than the board views it to be. The chapter is included in a recommended curriculum on emergency and disaster planning.

The degree of destruction wrought by nuclear war, the board's resolution said, must not be classified with that of earthquakes, radiation spills, and the like. "[T]o place nuclear war among survivable disasters is to imply that it is survivable," the resolution said. The board urged the federal agency to delete that chapter from the curriculum.

Earlier, school boards in Oakland and Berkeley also voted not to use the chapter in their schools.

Administrators of the District of Columbia's public schools have proposed that the city's school board end its three-year-old "promotion-gates" policy, under which students in the 1st through 6th grades have had to master specific mathematics and reading skills before being promoted into the second half of each grade.

The city's school officials believe the program is administratively cumbersome, unfairly stigmatizes those students who are consistently left back, and also lacks the funding necessary to effectively address the educational needs of such persistent repeaters, according to James T. Guines, associate superintendent. Mr. Guines noted that the school system has some 14-year-olds in the 3rd grade.

Mr. Guines said the school board is being asked to retain the program's competency-based instructional and assessment elements, but to shift promotion decisions to an annual schedule.

The promotion-gates program was implemented in the fall of 1980 in response to public criticism of the district's "social-promotion" policy, which allowed students to graduate from one grade to the next without regard to what they had learned.

The gates program requires that each student master 70 percent of a series of mathematics or reading competencies before advancing to the next rung on the 12-step ladder. Those who fail one subject receive remedial instruction through a variety of programs; those who fail both subjects also receive extra help, but are not allowed to advance.

This year, for the first time, those who fail to make it through the system's "gates" will attend mandatory summer school.

The District of Columbia is reported to be the only school system in the county that makes promotion decisions twice a year.

District News Roundup

Education Week
Volume 2, Issue 36, June 1, 1983, p 3

Copyright 1983, Editorial Projects in Education, Inc.

District News Roundup

Despite strong opposition from some community members, the Montgomery County, Md., school board voted last week to begin teaching 8th-grade students about birth control. Currently, only senior-high students receive information about contraception.

The vote came after more than two hours of debate, which included strong criticism of the measure by some community members. During a comment period that preceded the vote, the board received 3,400 letters opposing the change, and about 100 in favor of it, according to Kenneth Muir, a spokesman for the district. Most of the criticism suggested that, by adding the material, the school district would be showing students how to use contraceptives.

The purpose of the program, however, is one of acquainting young people, "before they need to know," with different forms of contraception, the framework in which various religious groups find contraception acceptable, and the efficacy and danger of different methods, Mr. Muir said.

"The school system isn't advocating anything," said Mr. Muir. "The first contraceptive technique presented and the only one presented as 100-percent accurate is abstinence."

Last week's vote was the second time that the board had considered the change; the measure was voted down by board members last year. Subsequently, however, several new members were elected to the board.

The curriculum change will add about one hour and 45 minutes of instruction to the existing 8th-grade unit on health.

Acts of vandalism in Philadelphia's schools cost the city's school system more than $3 million in repairs and custodial services during the 1980-81 school year, according to data compiled by the Council for Educational Priorities.

cep, a coalition of 17 citywide civic and educational groups, was able to determine individual building and districtwide repair expenses from a review of records on school maintenance and operations.

About 27 percent of the 8,421 work orders for the high schools were attributed to vandalism, which cost the district $764,900 to repair, according to Janice Williams, cep's assistant director.

The district spent $640,916 to correct the work of vandals in middle schools and $1.5 million for vandalism-related repairs in elementary schools, Ms. Williams said.

She said the information will be distributed to school-board members to help them make decisions about school closings.

A New Jersey school administrator has been suspended for secretly removing asbestos from two elementary schools.

George T. Hepbron, assistant superintendent of the East Windsor School District in Hightstown, last month personally removed three feet of asbestos wrapping from pipes at the Walter Black Elementary School and six inches of asbestos insulation from pipes at the Grace Norton Elementary School, he said.

Raymond Lewis, president of the board of education, suspended Mr. Hepbron indefinitely for acting without formal authorization. The board was scheduled to set a final suspension period last Thursday.

Mr. Hepbron said quick action was needed to allay the fears of parents. He said he removed the fibrous material after school on Friday so that no one would be around to interfere.

Many parents removed their children from school after reports that the asbestos was still in the schools despite a $44,000 cleanup project last year.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said schools must report asbestos contamination by June 28.

News Updates

Education Week
Volume 2, Issue 36, June 1, 1983, p 3

Copyright 1983, Editorial Projects in Education, Inc.

News Updates

In the latest round of recriminations between Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and the state's teachers' union, the Governor last week vetoed a conditional 3-percent pay raise for teachers and other state employees.

"If we have $30 million [the estimated cost of the salary increases], it should go to the children," Mr. Alexander said in a statement. ''Thirty million would pay for the first-year costs for the entire Better Schools Program."

The Tennessee Education Association lobbied successfully recently to postpone consideration of that program, the Governor's $210-million education-reform package. In addition to a controversial pay-incentive plan for the state's teachers, the program included provisions for such things as the purchase of classroom computers, mandatory kindergarten for 6-year-olds, and the hiring of additional mathematics and science teachers.

"When push came to shove in the last few days of the legislature [earlier this year], the teachers' union grabbed a raise for its members at the expense of programs for their students," Mr. Alexander said. ''Sometimes I think the children need a union."

The bill Mr. Alexander vetoed would have provided teachers and other public employees with automatic raises in November if state revenues for July, August, and September exceed collections from the same months of 1982 by 8.25 percent. Mr. Alexander said this would be an unlikely situation.

Representatives of the tea were unavailable for comment last week.

In another development, Mr. Alexander recently vetoed legislation that would give the Tennessee Education Association the right to a seat on the state's Insurance Committee, which oversees the management of Tennessee's state-employees' insurance system.

John Parish, a spokesman for Mr. Alexander, said the Governor favored the intent of the bill--to give public-school employees a seat on the insurance panel--but considered "undemocratic" a stipulation in the legislation requiring that the public-school representative be selected by the tea

The tea represents about 37 percent of the state's 100,000 public-school employees.

Alice G. Pinderhughes has been appointed superintendent of the Baltimore City Schools. She has been acting as interim superintendent since December, 1982, when John L. Crew retired after seven years as superintendent of the 125,000-student system, which is one of the nation's 10 largest.

Ms. Pinderhughes has made her career in elementary education and has been with the Baltimore City School system for 40 years as a teacher, assistant principal, supervisor, project director, and executive director of elementary education. She served as assistant superintendent from 1976 through last December.

She will earn $70,000 a year and has an indefinite contract.

Le Sacre du Printemps, Brooklyn Style

Education Week
Volume 2, Issue 36, June 1, 1983, p 3

Copyright 1983, Editorial Projects in Education, Inc.

Le Sacre du Printemps, Brooklyn Style

Despite an indignant editorial in The New York Times, neither the New York City Board of Education nor the city's Bureau of Traffic Operations is about to launch any massive campaigns to combat the practice of tossing pairs of sneakers over traffic lights in the city.

The practice peaks at the end of the school year when students, evidently overcome with the prospect of release, are wont to tie the laces of their worn-out sneakers together and toss the shoes over the nearest traffic light.

The traffic operations bureau removes the shoes, but only if they have another reason for attending to the light. The bureau argues that dispatching special sneaker-removal crews would be silly.

The New York Times, however, sees otherwise. In its recent editorial, the newspaper took both the traffic bureau and the board of education to task for, respectively, not removing the sneakers in a timely fashion and not discouraging the practice in the first place. Coining the term "Brooklyn moss" to describe the abandoned shoes, the paper said that the derelict sneakers symbolized neglect.

The traffic-operations bureau, although agreeing that the sneakers hardly enhance the appearance of the city streets, regards the newspaper's proposal as both highly impractical and unrealistic.

Officials also argue that the practice is not as common as the editorial implied.

"The truth is very simple," said Victor Ross, a spokesman for the traffic bureau. "It's a rite of spring in New York City. School is almost over. They're not losing sneakers because they're going to get new sneakers for the summer anyway. In France, the students riot with the police. Ours fling sneakers. I don't think it's a particularly venal sin that the youngsters have committed. I must confess to you that 50 years ago I did the same thing myself."

"We have 6,400 miles of streets, and 90,000 traffic lights," he continued. "If we pay a bunch of grown men to go around removing sneakers, it would tack 25 percent onto the cost of maintaining traffic lights."

A staff member at the school district's news bureau suggested that, historically, tossing sneakers was really a minor year-end ritual.

The more traditional rite, she noted, involves girls burning their gym suits.

Vol. 02, Issue 36

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