State News Roundup

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At the direction of the Minnesota legislature, the state's Higher Education Coordinating Board and its Board of Teaching have named a task force to assess teacher education and recommend curricula for education-school students.

The 23-member panel, which is to report its findings to the legislature by January 1987, includes teachers, school-board members, school administrators, teacher-education faculty and students, and business representatives. It also includes representatives from the office of the commissioner of education, the state board of education, the board of teaching, and the coordinating board.

The task force's charge is to recommend the knowledge, skills, and understanding that should be acquired by those who are seeking to become licensed teachers in Minnesota. The panel will examine research on effective teaching to identify the professional characteristics that lead to instructional excellence.

The panel also will identify economic, social, and political trends that will affect the expectations for learning in elementary and secondary schools. And it will study staffing patterns, school organization, and instructional methods.

The Oklahoma Education Association has joined the Oklahoma Pub-lic Employees Association in a suit asking the state supreme court to bar enforcement of a provision of the state constitution that prohibits public employees from working in any job in which they would be required to handle liquor.

The suit, filed on behalf of three teachers and two state employees, charges that this provision and a companion statute violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process.

The constitutional ban prevents about 200,000 state or local government employees from seeking any part-time or summer work in bars, liquor stores, or restaurants that serve liquor, or even from taking "any job that would require them to pick up a dirty glass that had been used to serve a drink,"according to Karen Long, a lawyer for the oea, the state affiliate of the National Education Association.

The provision assumes that such employment would pose a conflict of interest with enforcement of the state's liquor laws, but that is not the case for teachers and most other public employees, she said.

Although the ban has been in the state constitution since 1959, she said, it had not been enforceable until a new law requiring the licensing of all liquor-industry employees took effect this past July. The licensing commission will not accept applications from anyone who holds a government job, she said.

Taxpayers in small rural school districts in Nebraska have taken the state to court, claiming that neighboring districts are taking advantage of a new school-finance law by charging them exorbitant nonresident-tuition fees.

According to Gary Healey, a school-finance consultant with the8state department of education, the new law allows K-12 districts to charge tuition fees based on their average nonresident-student costs for the past five years, with no limit on how much they can charge per child.

As a result, some K-12 districts that now serve fewer students than they did in previous years are charging class I, elementary school-only districts as much as $20,000 per student, said Richard Baum, a lobbyist with the Nebraska School Improvement Association, which represents class I districts.

In some cases, class I districts that used to enroll students in neighboring districts have been asked to pay tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees, even though none of their students are currently enrolled in those districts, Mr. Baum added.

On the other hand, districts enrolling more tuition students than before are limited in the fees they can charge, and are probably losing money, Mr. Healey said.

The legislature adopted the new finance law last year in response to pending court challenges to a previous finance law. That law was declared unconstitutional in district court, but the state supreme court remanded the case to district court this past summer.

Mr. Healey said the legislature is not likely to amend the new law until the issue is settled in the courts.

The Kansas attorney general has advised that a proposed teacher-internship program that includes religiously affiliated schools would probably be acceptable to the courts as long as the state does not pay teachers employed by the schools to supervise the program.

The nonbinding advisory opinion, released this month, came after state education officials asked Attorney General Robert Stephan to review proposed teacher standards in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Aguilar v. Felton, which barred Chapter 1 compensatory-education teachers from private-school classrooms.

The proposal under review would require teacher-education graduates to intern at a school for one year in order to obtain state certification, said Rodney J. Bieker, legal-services director for the education department. "Senior teachers" would be paid a $1,000 stipend to supervise the interns. Under the attorney general's ruling, Mr. Bieker explained, this stipend could not be paid to teachers at church-related schools. But Mr. Stephan suggested that internships at church-related schools would not violate the First Amendment's establishment clause, according to Kathryn Gardner, an assistant attorney general.

Vol. 05, Issue 12

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