States News Roundup
Despite a recent 90-percent hike in the state income tax and increasing unemployment, school-tax issues on Ohio ballots last Tuesday had the highest rate of approval in several years.
Of the 98 local tax issues before voters, including continuing levies, 69.4 percent were approved, according to Robert Evans, assistant state superintendent of public instruction. Forty-one out of 60 new operating levies were approved for "the best rate we've had since 1965," Mr. Evans said.
Mr. Evans speculated that the state's high unemployment rate was "perversely a positive factor" in the high approval rate. "I think people in hard times recognize that education and training are a way out,'' he explained. "People think more about what education can do in hard times than they do in good times. The school still is a source of community pride, and in hard times, you band together to support that."
One of the big winners was the Dayton city school district, which won a 9.4-mill five-year emergency levy. "That's the second [levy passed] in an Ohio district under court order to desegregate," Mr. Ev-ans said. "I think that's pretty significant. It looks like those issues are subsiding." In addition, the Brunswick district outside Cleveland won its first operating levy since 1977. The district will reinstate extracurricular activities, improve transportation services, and decrease class sizes.
But in Shaker Heights, an affluent suburb of Cleveland, voters rejected a property-tax increase for the first time since the Depression. If the levy is not passed on a second try in August, the board has said it will be forced to lay off 25 percent of its professional staff.
Only two of the six districts with local income taxes on the ballot passed them. The local-option income tax for schools, instituted two years ago as a way to relieve property taxes, has been unpopular with voters and with municipal authorities. A bill to repeal it is pending in the General Assembly.
The Nebraska Supreme Court has ordered a woman with an 8th-grade education to stop operating a home school.
In the unanimous ruling, issued May 27, the court said Marjorie Big-elow, a Nebraska woman who was teaching her daughter at home using a religious curriculum obtained through the mail, "... is in fact a real, present, and serious threat to the education of her daughter, a minor in whom the state of Nebraska has a compelling interest."
"The defendant may supplement her daughter's education ... but nonetheless may not operate a school in violation of Nebraska law," the court ruled.
Nebraska has also been the site of several disputes over the right of the state to regulate religiously affiliated private schools--a right upheld by the state supreme court in a 1981 decision involving a school operated by the Faith Baptist Church in Louisville.
A suit filed in U.S. District Court charges that the Washington Education Association has violated antitrust regulations and has improperly used retirement funds.
The Educators Financial Services Corporation said that the wea earns as much as $250,000 a year by holding teachers' contributions to retirement funds in an interest-bearing bank account.
The organization, which offers retirement and other financial programs to teachers, said that the wea should be more prompt in passing money that it collects from teachers to the organizations that the teachers invest in.
The firm also alleges that the teachers' union gives an unfair advantage to other firms, in violation of antitrust laws, with its endorsements of investment plans.
Judith A. Lonnquist, the general counsel for the wea, said the union transfers the teachers' investments to the proper firms as soon as the firms will accept them. She also said that other professional organizations, including the American Bar Association and the American Medical Association, routinely make investment recommendations.
For the first time, schoolchildren in Alabama have achieved scores on the California Achievement Tests that exceed the national average in the four areas tested, the state education department reported last week.
In tests administered to pupils in grades 2, 4, 5, 8, and 10, achievement gains ranged between 1 and 8 percentage points. The tests covered reading, spelling, language, and mathematics.
The new scores represent significant progress, especially in some subjects, state education officials say.
In 1976, 8th-grade students' reading scores were 14 months below the national average.
In the latest test, the students surpassed the average by three months. In mathematics, 10th-graders' scores were 12 months ahead of the 1979 test scores.
The officials note that the gains are also significant because, beginning in 1985, these students will have to pass a similar battery of tests to receive high-school diplomas.