State News Roundup

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For the first time, Rhode Island's Head Start agencies have asked the state for funds, saying they cannot maintain services for some 1,600 disadvantaged youths next year without $345,000 in state aid.

Leaders of the legislature's House and Senate have already pledged their support for the funding request. Ronald DiOrio, Governor Edward DiPrete's policy director, said the proposal was "being looked at very closely, along with other programs."

Rhode Island's eight Head Start agencies, which will receive about $3.5 million from the federal government this year, are having difficulty raising the 25 percent local share that the federal grants require, according to Sister Barbara McMichael, the director of the Providence Head Start program. The requested state aid would equal about 10 percent of the federal grants.

"We're just barely making it, but we can't see a way to do it much longer without reducing services," Sister McMichael said. "We're really desperate for funds now, especially for teachers' salaries." Head Start teachers earn about one-third the salaries of classroom teachers, she noted.

Mr. DiOrio said the Governor's office is studying ways to help address Head Start's needs for housing and liability insurance. "There may not be the dollar need if we can address the other problems they have," he said.

California's new chancellor of community colleges has proposed that all students who wish to enter the two-year colleges take state placement examinations in the 11th grade to determine whether they need remedial help in English or mathematics.

Joshua L. Smith, who became chancellor of the 106-campus system early this fall, also called for community colleges and high schools to establish "precollegiate institutes" to provide remedial courses for students who fail the placement tests.

California students are currently required to pass a minimum-competency test in reading, writing, and math in order to obtain a high-school diploma. But those tests are developed by local districts; there is no state test.

Mr. Smith said his proposed placement tests would "not be used in any way to prevent access to prospective students"--the community colleges are open to any high-school graduate--but would help the colleges determine how best to compensate for any deficiency in basic academic skills.

"Since over 80 percent of the high-school graduates who apply for community-college admission are found to be in need of some form of remediation," he said, "I maintain that it is not necessary to wait for these students to come to us."

These proposals, and others affecting students and instructors in the colleges, have been forwarded to a commission appointed by the legislature to review the state's 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education. The commission currently is studying the state's community-college system which is the largest in the nation with about 1.1 million students.

A federal appeals court has ruled that the U.S. government cannot be held liable for negligence in cases arising out of Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit last month upheld a federal district-court decision that jrotc instructors are employees of school districts. Although the federal government pays a portion of the instructors' salaries, it exercises no control over their day-to-day ac-tivities, the court ruled.

The suit against the government was filed by Ismael Cavazos, a former student in the Brownsville (Tex.) Independent School District, who became a quadriplegic as a result of injuries he suffered prior to an unsupervised practice session of his high school's jrotc rifle team.

Mr. Cavazos charged that the government was negligent in supervising jrotc activities. But the courts ruled that jrotc instructors are independent contractors and cited earlier decisions that "the United States is not liable for the negligence of an independent contractor."

jrotc is sponsored jointly by high schools and the U.S. Army. The program enrolled 135,000 students this year, according to Jack R. Muhlenbeck, a spokesman for the Army.

State funding for preschool children would jump nearly 500 percent to $58 million next year under a $2.7-billion budget proposed by State Superintendent Ted Sanders of Illinois.

Overall, Mr. Sanders is seeking an increase of $380 million--or 15.4 percent--for the fiscal year beginning next July.

The superintendent made his proposal to the state board of education, which will act early next year on a budget to be submitted to the General Assembly.

Mr. Sanders is seeking $1.84 billion in general state aid, an increase of $164 million over this year's spending. An additional $69 million would go to reform measures, the largest part of it to preschool programs.

State officials estimate that 112,000 preschoolers--nearly a third of the 3- and 4-year-old population--need early-childhood-education programs. Mr. Sanders' budget would provide services for about half of them. This year's budget allocates about $12 million to preschool programs.

The proposal also calls for a 50 percent increase--to $15 million--for efforts to help combat the problem of high-school dropouts.

Vol. 05, Issue 14

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