States News Roundup

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The state of Massachusetts has failed to live up to its constitutional obligation to fund mandated education programs, the city of Worcester charges in a lawsuit filed this month.

"We cannot continue to adhere to legislative and regulatory requirements without funding, and then be told we're in violation," said Mayor Jordan Levy. "You can't have it both ways."

Since 1981, when Proposition 2 limited local property-tax increases, Mr. Levy said, the state has failed to reimburse Worcester for $5.1 million in costs the city incurred to comply with mandates to construct architectural barriers, to place foster children, and to provide counseling, transportation, special education, and bilingual education.

Without additional state aid, he added, the city will be unable to accommodate its growing school population. Worcester has raised taxes to the legal limit, he noted.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has upheld a controversial state law that requires school officials to report any suspected cases of child abuse.

The March 17 decision stemmed from a case involving a Washington County elementary-school principal who was charged under the 1975 law for failing to report allegations that a teacher was sexually abusing students.

The case was brought to the state's highest court after a lower court dismissed the misdemeanor charges against the principal, Curtis L. Grover, saying that the reporting statute was unconstitutionally vague.

In St. Paul, meanwhile, school employees seeking to report suspected child abuse have been directed to call the local police, instead of contacting county child-protection workers as they have in the past.

Superintendent David Bennett said he decided to ask teachers and administrators to go directly to the police after reviewing the handling of "five or six" such cases previously reported by school authorities.

"It was not uncommon to see cases closed without ever contacting parents or getting into the home to see what was going on," he said. "Police just have greater initial access to persons or property."

The Kentucky Board of Education has adopted a model sex-education curriculum opposed by John Brock, the state superintendent.

The curriculum calls for discussion of birth-control methods beginning in the 8th grade.

Mr. Brock had proposed a course of study that stressed abstinence and touched on contraception only in the context of marriage and family planning and only in grades 9-12.

Mr. Brock said the discussion of contraceptives would send students mixed signals about premarital sex. There is little evidence to show that information on contraception affects adolescent sexual activity, he argued.

The curriculum adopted by the board was developed by a task force appointed by Mr. Brock. The model curriculum will be sent to school districts, but local officials will have the option of altering it. State law requires all districts to offer sex-education instruction by January 1990.

A comprehensive policy for curbing alleged abuses by New York State proprietary schools has been proposed by the state Board of Regents.

The board's recommendations, scheduled to be transmitted formally to the legislature this week, seek to correct what critics have called a widespread pattern of deceptive recruitment, improper admissions, low program quality, and misuse of state and federal student-aid programs by career schools in the state.

Among the strategies put forward by the board were: independent counseling and evaluation of potential trade-school students; remedial help for those unable to benefit from training because of lack of basic skills; stronger refund requirements for students who do not finish training; establishment of a separate state aid program for vocational students; and development of performance standards for schools.

Limited-English-proficient students in Connecticut are staying in bilingual-education classes longer than officials would like, according to a state evaluation.

But the students are performing better than pupils in previous years when they do make the transition to all-English classrooms, the study indicates.

Only 8 percent of the 9,000 students enrolled in bilingual-education classes exited the program on the basis of English proficiency in the 1987-88 school year, it found.

The evaluation shows that students spent an average of four years in the bilingual-education classes, although nearly half spent less than three years.

Robert Margolin, director of education-support services for the state education department, attributed the low exit rate to several factors. He noted that many students enter the program with "a lack of mastery of even their native language" and that large numbers, as a result of frequent family moves, do not remain in the program long enough to master English.

The report notes, however, that students exiting the program after attaining English proficiency scored at or above the national norm on various standardized tests when they entered mainstream classes.

Vol. 08, Issue 27

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