State News Roundup
A federal appeals court has ruled that a Mississippi ban on year-round schooling for disabled students violates federal laws for spe-cial education. The court sent the case back to the district court and ordered it to oversee a revamping of the programs.
The Mississippi law that limits the school year to 180 days for handicapped children violated the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 because it did not take into account the needs of individual children, according to the decision issued by the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
The law, P.L. 94-142, "does not tolerate policies that impose a rigid pattern on the education of children," wrote Judge Alvin B. Rubin for a three-judge panel. The state has asked for a rehearing before the full appeals panel of the court.
Judge Rubin sent the case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi and instructed it to overturn the ban on a longer school year and require the state to design each handicapped child's program individually.
Missouri To Reject Federal Guidelines For the Handicapped
Missouri will probably not agree to the guidelines for special education set by the Education Department's office for civil rights earlier this month, the state official who directs programs for handicapped students said last week.
In a ruling issued Aug. 5, the ocr's Kansas City office said severely handicapped students should receive six hours of instruction per day. The ocr added that if the state wanted to count lunch periods as instructional time, it would need to specify what educational goals are met during the period. Currently, the amount of instruction that handicapped students receive is dictated by their individual education plans.
The state could lose more than $26 million in federal aid if it does not comply with the federal standards or reach an agreement with the civil-rights office by Sept. 5.
Under a Missouri law that was rescinded during the latest session of the legislature, all students must receive six hours of schooling per day. The regulation will become null in the fall of 1984.
Leonard Hall, the assistant commissioner for special education, said the department of education probably would tell the local civil-rights bureau that it would appeal the finding to the national office.
Mr. Hall said the six-hour requirement would be counter-productive for some students. "We have students who cannot stand even five hours,'' he said. "The length of the school day is not as important as what goes on during the school day."
Voters Reject Levies For School Funding In Oregon Districts
Voters' frustration over rapidly rising property taxes has been blamed for the low rate of school-levy approval in Oregon this month.
Of 36 districts that submitted levies to the electorate on Aug. 9, only 12 were approved, according to Larry Austin, spokesman for the state department of education. Together with previous referendum results, the August election leaves as many as 58 school districts, enrolling about 40 percent of the state's students, without sufficient funds to complete the 1983-84 school year. "All the districts that we know of can open in September, but many couldn't make it another month," Mr. Austin said.
Local property taxes make up about 60 percent of the average Oregon district's income, and the property-tax burden has been rising in recent years as federal and state aid have decreased. "People think the districts are coming back year after year for more, and that's not the case," Mr. Austin said.
Noting that other hard-pressed states, such as Michigan, have had unprecedented success with local school levies this summer, Mr. Aus-tin said, "I would argue that recovery has hit those states faster than ours. This is timber country, and housing just has not rebounded."
In its 1983 session, the legislature failed to pass a state sales tax as a means of providing property-tax relief, Mr. Austin said, "and that added fuel to the fire." Gov. Victor Atiyeh is expected to call a special session late this year to consider tax reform, but any action would come too late to affect school budgets for the coming academic year, Mr. Austin added.
The next regular election is scheduled for Sept. 20. But one district, Lincoln County, will not have enough money to keep schools open that long and has received state permission for a special election on Sept. 7.
New Texas Proposal Would 'Track' Pupils After Sixth Grade
The chairman of the Texas Board of Education has proposed that students choose, as early as the 6th grade, a career track directing them toward either white-collar or blue-collar jobs. Although details of the proposal have not yet been worked out, students might make their choice based on tests that would be administered in elementary school.
The early curriculum choice might help close the achievement gap between U.S. students and those from competitors such as West Germany and Japan, according to Joe Kelly Butler.
Mr. Butler proposed that tests be used to help parents and students decide on an appropriate track, but test results would not exclude students from any program. Students could choose between academic, general, and vocational tracks, a spokesman for the state education department said.
Mr. Butler has said he plans to present the plan at the board's September meeting, but other members predicted it may encounter strong resistence.
Home Schooling In North Carolina Limited by Court
A federal appeals court has ruled that North Carolina's interest in the education of its citizens outweighs the religious interests of parents who elect to teach their children at home.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reached that decision last month in a case involving Peter Duro, a fundamentalist Christian whose wife has been teaching their five school-age children at home.
State law requires children between the ages of 7 and 16 to attend either private or public schools. Ms. Duro, who does not have a teaching certificate and has never been trained as a teacher, teaches her children using a Christian self-teaching curriculum.
In its July 14 ruling in the case, Duro v. District Attorney, the court held that "the welfare of the children is paramount and their future well-being mandates attendance at a public or nonpublic school." The parents failed to demonstrate, the court added, that the instruction their children receive prepares them "to be self-sufficient participants in our modern society or [enables] them to participate intelligently in our political system."
Ala. Legislature Votes $1.5 Billion For Public Schools
The Alabama legislature has approved a $1.5-billion education budget for 1983-84 that includes more than $5 million for an additional 420 kindergarten classes.
Currently, Alabama provides funds for about one-third of the kindergarten classes it needs. Federal and local money pay for the rest, but about one-third of the eligible students in the state remained unserved last year.
In an attempt to avoid a fifth consecutive year of budget cuts, lawmakers did not raise teachers' salaries, but they did approve a bill to create a statewide insurance plan for teachers. The plan is expected to provide better coverage at a lower cost to school districts.
In other legislative action, a bill that would have created a separate board of trustees for public two-year colleges failed to be voted on in the last day of the session.
Proponents of the bill argued that the state board of education could not effectively oversee both precollegiate public education and the two-year colleges.
But the state board and the Alabama Education Association opposed the measure.