State News Roundup

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School districts, colleges, and businesses in South Carolina would form voluntary partnerships to establish a statewide system of regional resource centers for mathematics and science teachers under a reform proposal released this month by Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr.

The proposed centers would help provide the teachers with training, lesson-planning assistance, and equipment.

The proposal is part of a comprehensive reform strategy prepared by the Governor's Mathematics and Sciences Advisory Board, which was created to develop a response to the national education goals adopted by President Bush and the nation's governors in 1989.

The proposal to establish the system of 13 resource centers within an hour's drive of every teacher in the state is one of four "critical needs'' that the report says must be met if the state's students are to achieve the goal of being "first in the world in science and math achievement'' by 2000.

Governor Campbell said the report will provide important documentation for a $10 million grant proposal that the state will make this year to the National Science Foundation's State Systemic Initiatives Program.

The state also will apply this year for $16 million in federal grants from the U.S. Energy Department, Mr. Campbell said.

Commissioner of Education John Ellis of New Jersey has barred the Merchantville district from ending a longstanding agreement that helps bring racial balance to a neighboring district's high school.

In a ruling issued this month, Mr. Ellis said that Merchantville, which has sent all of its high school students to nearby Pennsauken for 20 years, must continue doing so for the sake of maintaining Pennsauken High School's racial balance.

Mr. Ellis said that ending the relationship would have no significant financial or educational impact on Pennsauken, but would likely cause a 1.7 percent drop in the school's white enrollment, enough to cause racial instability and discourage "cultural and educational mingling.''

Merchantville had planned to send the students to a third district, and officials had argued that such a move would positively affect that district's racial balance.

The commissioner's decision, based in large part on a recent state court ruling in a case involving the Englewood and Englewood Cliffs districts, disregarded those claims. It also overturned a May ruling by an administrative law judge upholding the district's plan.

Frustrated by soaring costs and a finance formula deemed "inadequate,'' school administrators in Minnesota have called on the state to consider imposing a statewide salary freeze on school employees and scrapping the right of teachers to strike.

A committee of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators this month issued a strongly worded report calling for the state to overhaul its finance formula, distribute property-tax revenues equally throughout the state, and develop student performance standards and assessments.

The state's collective-bargaining process "is simply not working in the best interest of students or the state,'' the report charges. Fearing community discontent over prolonged strikes, school boards often agree to settlements they cannot afford, and then must cut programs, the report charges.

In the short term, the legislature should freeze the salaries of all school employees, the report says. Possible longer-term solutions include replacing the right to strike with arbitration, instituting a regional bargaining system, or capping salary increases.

A spokesman for the Minnesota Education Association said collective bargaining had produced few strikes in the state and termed the report "a disappointment.''

Vol. 12, Issue 04

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