State Journal: Holiday Repeal; Site Visits

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In this season of giving, public school teachers in New Jersey may be getting ready to christen state lawmakers "Scrooge."

Legislation is in the works that would deprive teachers of such lesser holidays as Veterans Day, Columbus Day, and Election Day.

Oddly enough, many schools are in session on these days and children are required to be in class. As a result, schools occasionally have had to close suddenly when insufficient numbers of teachers showed up, supporters of the bill say.

"If the school is going to be open on Election Day, the teachers should be there as well," said Sen. John Ewing, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, which passed the bill last month.

Not surprisingly, the New Jersey Education Association opposes the bill, which would, in effect, repeal a 1967 law granting teachers the time off.

The law, says the union, recognized that teachers should be allowed to stay home on public holidays as millions of private employees do.

It also recognized that "some holidays are more important to some individuals than other holidays," an N.J.E.A. spokeswoman said.

Members of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators opened the organization's 18th annual legislative conference, held in Memphis last week, with visits to 26 local schools.

The intent, according to a spokesman for the association, was to "deliver positive, character-building messages" to the city's students.

"In the inner city, problems in the schools are no different whether it's Memphis or Los Angeles," a Tennessee state lawmaker, Rep. Henri E. Brooks, told The Commercial Appeal newspaper.

Vice President Gore was the keynote speaker at the conference, which focused on telecommunications policy. In particular, black lawmakers are concerned that the "information highway" may not reach schools and homes in minority communities.

"Our discussions and decisions at this conference may well determine whether or not our communities are enhanced, or marginalized, by this new technology," Lois DeBerry, the N.B.S.L. president and the speaker pro tempore of the Tennessee House, said in a statement.

The organization represents some 540 lawmakers serving in legislatures in 42 states.

--Karen Diegmueller & JULIE A. MILLER

Vol. 14, Issue 14

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