News in Brief
A Minnesota court has temporarily blocked plans by state officials to sell 1,600 lakeshore "16th section" school lots now leased to private citizens.
The Ramsay County District Court halted the sales on Aug. 29, pending a hearing later this month in a suit that charges Gov. Rudy Perpich and other top officials with mismanaging the state's school lands.
The lawyers who initiated the case, Robert P. Larson and Barbara4Ashley of Wayzata, have asked the court to certify it as a class action on behalf of all 710,000 public-school students in Minnesota.
According to Mr. Larson, the suit charges that the state has been leasing the valuable lakeshore lots at a rate below their fair market value, thus depriving the Minnesota Permanent School Fund of revenues.
It also challenges the constitutionality of a 1986 law requiring the state to sell the lots to their current leaseholders at their request. The proceeds from the sales would go into the permanent fund. The lawyers argue that the proposed sales8would not generate as much revenue for the fund as would better state management of the lots.
John Tunheim, the state's chief deputy attorney general, said the charges of mismanagement against the Governor and other officials were "misplaced entirely." He added that the state "strongly disagrees" that the law authorizing the land sales violates the Minnesota constitution.
The Oklahoma Board of Education, bowing to pressure from rural educators and lawmakers, has decided to drop a planned study of whether the state should set "optimum" enrollments for public schools.
Hundreds of protesters jammed into the board's chambers during an Aug. 27 hearing to voice their opposition to the proposed study, arguing that it would result in unwanted school consolidations.
The board agreed over the summer to consider the issue, after receiving a report from a committee on school finance created by the legislature. That report suggested that school districts should strive for "ideal" enrollments of 1,200 students for high schools, 700 for middle schools, and 470 for elementary schools.
The school-finance group recommended several means of achieving the optimum enrollments, including increased cooperation among districts and shifts in district boundaries.
"The plan was more a model than a recommendation," said John M. Folks, state superintendent. But at the meeting, Mr. Folks said, it was clear that the people of Oklahoma perceived it as a move toward unwanted consolidation.
"The board dropped the idea because an issue of this magnitude should be addressed by the legislature," he said.
Vocational education in New Jersey will be scrutinized in coming months by a panel of business and education leaders appointed this month by Saul Cooperman, the state education commissioner.
According to Mr. Cooperman, the 25-member group will examine the system to determine how well it is adapting to changes in demographics and the job market. It is scheduled to issue its final report in the spring.
Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin says that a proposal to establish a separate "inner city" school district within the boundaries of the existing Milwaukee district deserves further study.
"I would like to see it in an experimental way to see if it would encourage inner-city students to stay in high school to get a degree," Governor Thompson said on a local radio talk show this month.
Supporters of the plan maintain that a smaller, self-governing district would be more responsive to the needs of the disadvantaged population it would serve. A spokesman for the Governor said that "he hopes his openness to the idea will lead to more discussion about it."
Vol. 07, Issue 02