Thornburgh Kills Bill Striking Teacher Mandate

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Gov. Richard L. Thornburgh of Pennsylvania has blocked a late-hour attempt to dismantle what he called "a vital component" of his comprehensive education-reform package.

The Governor's Dec. 19 veto of a bill that would have eliminated a new continuing-education requirement for future teachers and administrators capped an active two-year legislative session that put several reform initiatives on the books.

The continuing-education requirement, which was opposed by the state's two teachers' unions, was one of three teacher-certification regulations endorsed by the Governor and enacted by the state board of education in September.

The regulations, which go into effect in June 1987, require that new teachers serve an apprenticeship under experienced teachers and pass state-administered competency examinations before their initial certification, said Robert Feir, coordinator of state legislative relations for the department of education.

The continuing-education requirement, he added, mandates that teachers and administrators earn six credit-hours every five years to maintain their active certification.

Veto Message

Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation that would have eliminated this new requirement. But in his veto message to the Senate, Governor Thornburgh noted that "this special-interest legislation would undo one of our efforts to improve the quality of education in Pennsylvania."

"Continuing education," he said, "has been demonstrated to expand a teacher's knowledge about the methods of effective instruction, improve a teacher's ability to communicate successfully with students, and result in significant achievement gains in the classroom."

Governor's Reform Proposal

The teacher-certification require-ments were part of the Governor's October 1983 reform proposal, titled: "Turning the Tide: An Agenda for Excellence in Pennsylvania Public Schools."

Three of the Governor's five major initiatives were adopted during the two-year legislative session that began in January 1983 and ended on Nov. 30, according to Mr. Feir.

In addition to imposing new teacher-certification requirements, the state board, he said, toughened graduation requirements and adopted a statewide curriculum plan; it also adopted regulations requiring annual competency testing in reading and mathematics for students in grades 3, 5, and 8.

Last September, Mr. Feir added, the legislature provided funds for remediation programs for students falling below a certain level on those tests.

The Governor's other major initiatives will probably be addressed in the new legislative session, which began Jan. 1, Mr. Feir said. One would allow school districts to establish criteria under which up to 5 percent of their faculty members would be eligible for cash awards, he said.

The other, he added, would provide $1,000 scholarships to students who score in the top 1 percent on a state test that would be based on a rigorous four-year academic high-school curriculum.

Other Legislative Action

In other legislative action late last month:

The Governor on Dec. 26 signed a Senate bill to combat child abuse that requires background checks of prospective employees of day-care agencies and public and private schools, said Terry Williamson, a spokesman for the Governor. The checks, he said, are to be made against state police records and the child-abuse registry compiled by the state department of public welfare.

A House bill that would have given the legislature authority to regulate private schools got sidetracked in the final days of the session.

Currently, Mr. Feir explained, private schools are minimally regu-lated by the state board. The new bill would have--for the first time--established graduation requirements and curriculum guidelines for private schools.

Passed in the House, the measure was amended by the Senate to require all public schools to offer free kindergarten. By the time the bill was sent back to the House for concurrence on the amendment, he said, the chamber had adjourned.

Vol. 04, Issue 16

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