State News Roundup

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A group of Christian schools in Michigan will continue to refuse to provide information to the state about teacher certification, even though a state judge has dismissed its lawsuit challenging the reporting requirements.

On Nov. 13, State Circuit Court Judge James Giddings of Ingham County granted the state's request to dismiss the lawsuit by four church schools on the grounds that a 1986 ruling in another case had already decided the issue.

That decision upheld a state requirement that all schools in the state employ certified teachers. The Christian schools fear the reports will be used to close schools that do not comply with the state requirements.

Robert E. Baldwin, director of governmental affairs for the Michigan Association of Christian Schools, said the schools "will explore every legal remedy" in their battle against the state, including an appeal of the judge's ruling.

Church officials contend that the schools are an extension of their ministries, and that submitting to state requirements on teacher certification would give authorities "veto power" over the church's work, officials said.

Only four schools were named in the lawsuit, but some 200 schools withheld the required annual report to the state on the number of students, courses taught, and qualifications of teachers, Mr. Baldwin said.

In the wake of the judge's dismissal of the suit, some of those schools are expected to comply with the state reporting requirement. But as many as 175 schools may continue to withhold the information, Mr. Baldwin said, even if it means the state closes the schools and jails church and school officials.

State education-department officials have begun administrative proceedings against nine schools, but none has reached a conclusion, he said.

Gov. Joe Frank Harris of Georgia has announced plans to create a state-run Children's Training Academy to teach public and private officials to work with abused and troubled youths.

The proposed academy, which would be funded by the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and by the state, would train more than 4,000 professionals a year in how to recognize child abuse and how to work with abused children.

The training program, which would be voluntary, would be targeted to day-care workers, child-welfare workers, public-health nurses, mental-health staff members, law-enforcement officers, and public prosecutors and judges, according to a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Human Resources.

It would also be open to other professionals, including teachers, an aide to the Governor said.

Earlier this month, a Governor's task force issued a report stating that the child-welfare system in the state has failed abused children, in part because of lack of training among caseworkers and others.

After examining the files of 51 children who died last year while under state protection, the task force concluded that four diedesult of faulty training or bad judgment on the part of caseworkers.

The Governor said he plans to include funding for the academy in his upcoming budget proposal, but he did not say how much.

By 1995, Florida should provide preschool education to at least half of the state's disadvantaged children, Education Commissioner Betty Castor has declared.

Currently, Ms. Castor said, only about one-quarter of the state's disadvantaged children attend preschool classes. By the end of the century, she said, all of the state's estimated 128,000 poor youngsters should be enrolled in preschool classes.

Ms. Castor announced the goal, which she said will help reduce the state's dropout rate, at a meeting of business leaders earlier this month in Palm Beach. She offered no specifics on how the state might pay for the new program, but estimated that it would cost at least an additional $30 million a year.

Florida's dropout rate is 6.8 percent, according to state education-department figures. Ms. Castor's proposal would help reduce that rate to 4 percent, a department spokesman said.

In its first disciplinary action under the state's "no-pass, no-play'' rule, the Georgia Board of Education has suspended a principal who forged athletes' medical records.

John Eckenroth of Harlem Middle School in Columbia County was suspended for two years. He will automatically be reinstated as a school employee after that time if his certificate remains valid, according to a board spokesman.

According to investigators, Mr. Eckenroth said he made the forgeries so his school would comply with state standards, which require schools to keep records of physical examinations of all athletes.

Physical exams of athletes are also required under the state's no-pass, no-play rule. Mr. Eckenroth's punishment was meted out by the state's professional practices commission, which investigates alleged improprieties of educators.

The number of support staff serving Rhode Island's handicapped schoolchildren could increase under a rule change approved this month by the state Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education.

The new rules affect state-mandated ratios governing the number of support personnel hired by school districts.

For example, districts are now required to hire one speech pathologist for every 1,200 students in the general school population--a reduction from the previous ratio of 1 professional per 1,500 students. The ratios for all support staff also must include, for the first time, counts of children from private schools and preschoolers.

Although widely praised, the changes were criticized by some local school district officials who said the new rules would impose a heavy financial burden.

Publishers must add to health textbooks information about drug abuse and sexually transmitted diseases before the books are made available to schools, the Texas Board of Education has decided.

The board this month adopted 15 textbooks for grades 4 through 8, for use beginning in the 1990-91 school year.

Before the vote, however, board members expressed concern that the books did not contain enough specific information on the two controversial subjects. They agreed to allow the publishers to make revisions next year.

Vol. 09, Issue 13

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