State News Roundup
Gov. Ed Herschler of Wyoming has signed into law a bill that permits school districts to develop alternative scheduling as long as they continue to meet state educational requirements.
The new law, which was approved by the state legislature last month, will permit local districts to offer such innovations as a longer school day and a four-day week, said Audrey M. Cotherman, deputy state superintendent of public instruction.
With this flexibility, districts can supplement four days of academics with one day of extracurricular activities at the elementary-school level or a day of work experience for high-school students, Ms. Cotherman said. Such scheduling should reduce classroom interruptions and improve the time students spend on academic subjects, she added.
Districts that would like to implement alternative scheduling are required to present their educational objectives to the state board of education, which must approve all proposals. The board will not approve any schedule that reduces the minimum number of hours students are currently required to be in school each year--875 for elementary students and 1050 for secondary students.
A ruling by the Rhode Island Supreme Court has granted almost total control over local school spending to school committees--at the expense of city councils and voters at town meetings.
The ruling, in a case involving the Essex-West Greenwich Regional School District, requires municipalities to honor any contract entered into by a school committee. In Rhode Island, such contracts account for about 90 percent of local school spending.
The issue arose when the citizens of Exeter-West Greenwich voted at a regional financial meeting last year to cut $400,000 from the school budget, leaving the district with a $325,000 deficit.
J. Troy Earhart, the state's commissioner of elementary and secondary education, ruled that the towns had to come up with funds to avoid the deficit, and the courts concurred.
According to Forrest Avila, counsel to the commissioner, the court's decision "really clarifies the law," so that parties to contracts with school committees, including teacher's unions, "know where they stand."
Vermont teachers and their supporters rallied at the Capitol in Montpelier recently in favor of a proposed $113-million increase in state aid to education.
The proposal far outstrips a $7.8-million increase Gov. Madeleine Kunin has recommended for the coming fiscal year as part of a plan to increase state aid by 20 percent, and it has drawn considerable opposition.
The rally, organized by the Vermont affiliate of the National Education Association, came the day after the introduction of legislation that would add the funds to the $71-million the state now distributes to local school districts.
Maida Townshend, president of the Vermont nea, said the funding increase would bring Vermont up to the national average in state support for education and would fund increases in teacher salaries, program-improvement grants, and property-tax relief.
She said Governor Kunin's proposal was inadequate, citing a state board of education estimate that $14-million in additional state funds are needed to maintain current programs.
There are too many boards, commissions, and councils in the executive branch of North Carolina state government, the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, an independent, nonprofit research organization, has concluded. And some of those groups--including education panels--should be abolished.
After three years of research, the center identified 320 citizen-advisory boards, part-time groups to which citizens are appointed by the governor and other executive officials.
Nine of those boards alone are on public-school vocational education, according to Ran Coble, the director of the center and one of the report's authors.
The study did praise a number of the school boards, including the State Board of Education, but noted that too many other bodies are inactive, ineffective, or duplicative; 98 of those groups, the state center's study recommends, should be disbanded.
Elimination of these groups, the center contends, would save taxpayers approximately $1.4 million. "The goal is to get the most citizen participation for the least cost. We think there's room for improvement."
Copies of the report are available for $15 plus $1.32 for postage and handling from the North Carolina Center, P.O. Box 430, Raleigh, N.C. 27602.
Enrollment in high-school vocational-education programs in Michi-gan continues to reflect traditional gender biases, with males clustered in courses leading to higher-paying, higher-status jobs, according to a survey of 22 of the state's vocational-education districts.
Classes are "still sex-oriented in the same old-fashioned way," according to Beverly McAninch, president of the Michigan League of Women Voters, which conducted the study for the State Advisory Council for Vocational Education. "Boys are taking mechanics and girls are taking hairdressing," she said.
The study found that in 1984, males made up 85 percent of all students enrolled in trade and industry courses, while females accounted for 85 percent of those enrolled in clerical courses, Ms. McAninch said.
She also noted that the results show that parents need to be educated to encourage students to pursue nontraditional careers.
Eleven school districts in South Carolina will soon receive grants of up to $30,000 to develop proposals--which may eventually be adopted statewide--for rewarding good teachers.
The districts, which were chosen by an advisory committee on teacher incentives and the state board of education, will submit their proposed plans to the state department of education in April. The department will choose up to three models to test in nine districts this coming school year.
South Carolina's Education Improvement Act of 1984 requires the state to develop a teacher-incentive program. The board must adopt one of the district models for statewide use in 1986-87.
Each of the models developed by the 11 districts must include assessments of the teacher's performance based on student achievement and on evaluations by principals and peers, and must contain a requirement that teachers participate in further training.
Local property taxes in Texas climbed an average of 15 percent last year to pay for required school reforms, according to a survey de-signed to measure the financial impact of HB 72, the state's omnibus education-reform legislation.
The survey, which was conducted last fall by the Austin-based Moak Consulting Services, also found that teachers' salaries rose an average of 12 percent to $22,648 annually, with beginning teachers' salaries climbing almost 23 percent to $17,320, according to Lynn Moak, president of the firm.
From questionnaires mailed by the Texas Education Agency to the state's 1,097 school districts, Mr. Moak also found that average per-pupil expenditures rose 15 percent to $2,810; in the state's 151 poorest districts, expenditures climbed 30 percent.
"HB 72 was a very equalization-oriented measure for Texas," Mr. Moak said. But he also noted that "even after the equalizing effect of HB 72, we still have a significant gap with respect to wealth."
In the area of teachers' salaries, Mr. Moak pointed out, there is a gap of about $4,000 between those of wealthy and poor districts.
Vol. 04, Issue 24