States News Roundup
The plaintiffs in New Jersey's new school-finance case, which was originally scheduled to go to trial this month, have appealed a trial judge's dismissal of their suit. Chancery Judge Virginia Long of Mercer County dismissed the complaint on Nov. 15 on grounds that the plaintiffs had failed to exhaust administrative remedies.
The suit, Abbott v. Burke, contends that the changes made in the state's school-finance system in response to the state supreme court's 1973 order in a successful challenge, Robinson v. Cahill, have failed to provide adequate or equal fiscal resources for urban districts.
The plaintiffs, a group of schoolchildren from four urban districts, will ask the state supreme court to hear the case directly, bypassing the intermediate appellate level.
In the meantime, according to the lawyer representing the state officials who are defendants in the case, Judge Long's order will set into motion an administrative proceeding to investigate the plaintiffs' claims.
"First, you have to look at the education being provided in those districts and determine whether it is adequate," said Steven Wallach, a deputy state attorney general.
"If not, you have to look at why; it may or may not be financial. Several of these districts are running surpluses. The commissioner has very broad and extensive powers to remedy any deficiencies he finds in those districts," he added.
Marilyn J. Morheuser of the Education Law Center Inc. in Newark, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said Judge Long's order was without precedent in school-finance litigation. The state supreme court should act quickly, she argued, because the statistical data making up the evidence change from year to year and would have to be updated--a process that is both costly and time-consuming.
But even on the swiftest possible schedule, observers expect it will be at least two months before the case is tried, if at all.
An official in the Michigan Education Department has developed a model program to increase the number of women in educational administration by raising awareness in school districts.
Noting that the number of women superintendents and secondary-school principals has declined in Michigan since the beginning of the century, Jo Jacobs, coordinator of the office for sex equity, has tried to identify the institutional barriers that prevent women from reaching such positions.
Along with 30 other women who hold administrative positions in education, Ms. Jacobs developed a program that will be tested next year in three districts that want to increase the number of women in administrative ranks.
"Until women are seen to be legitimate in the role [of administrator], it will be very difficult for women to reach those kinds of positions," said Ms. Jacobs.
In each district, various groups--such as school boards and labor unions--will be involved in completing 19 objectives, such as participating in training sessions to increase awareness of the issue.
During the three-year project, the program administrators will analyze both statistical data, such as employment figures, and "perceptual'' data.
The researchers will ask, for example whether "the attitudes about the appropriateness of women as administrators" in a given school district undergo any change over time, Ms. Jacobs said.
Ms. Jacobs said she hopes the elements of the program, which is funded by a $265,000 grant from the Women's Educational Equity Act Program, will be distributed nationally upon completion of the pilot project.
The former principal of a special-education school in Louisiana has filed a $1-million suit against the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education alleging that the board's disciplinary action against him violated his civil rights.
The suit was filed earlier last month in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by John Foster, who had been the principal of a school for handicapped children at the Southeast Louisiana Hospital until the state board removed him on charges of incompetence, willful neglect, and dishonesty.
David A. Hamilton, general counsel for the state department of education, said the suit alleges that the state board exceeded its authority when it ordered J. Kelly Nix, state superintendent of education, to transfer Mr. Foster from the principal's position to a temporary position as a "troubleshooter" for another state-operated facility.
Since both special-education programs to which Mr. Foster has been assigned are part of a statewide special-education district, the suit contends that any disciplinary action should have been initiated by the state superintendent, according to Mr. Hamilton.
A federal judge has awarded more than $30,000 to the parents of a dyslexic boy in Vance County, N.C., whose learning disability went unrecognized by North Carolina school officials for six years.
Under the order handed down by Federal District Judge Franklin T. Dupree, the Vance County Board of Education will pay $30,864 to his parents, Frances A. and James A. Hall 3rd., plus the cost of educating the boy at a private school for the 1983-84 school year.
The State Department of Public Instruction and A. Craig Phillips, state superintendent of public instruction, also were defendants in the suit.
Judge Dupree's order said the Vance school board could apply to the state for some of the money owed the Halls.
The Halls' son, James Hall 4th, attended the Vance public schools from 1974 to 1980 and had undergone several diagnostic tests that failed to show why he scored high on iq tests but lagged in reading ability.
School officials' placement of the boy in classes for pupils with learning disabilities failed to improve the situation.
The Halls withdrew their son from public school in 1980 due to his lack of academic progress and because he was developing emotional difficulties related to his failures, their suit states. He was then evaluated by private educational consultants, who diagnosed his dyslexia.
In 1981, they enrolled him in a specialized private school in Virginia, where he reportedly made rapid progress in reading under the school's program for dyslexic students.
The Halls asked the state to pay for their son's private education but were told that he would have to be re-enrolled in a public school and re-evaluated before the state funding would be possible.
After agreeing to the tests, school officials recommended that he be returned to a public school with a new individualized-instruction plan.
The Halls then filed suit in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, seeking state funds for the tuition they had paid.
The court found that the school district had failed to notify the Halls of their rights to examine their son's education records and to an independent evaluation of his problems.
Also, the final education plan the Vance schools designed for James was later found inadequate in an administrative review.
Vol. 03, Issue 14