News In Brief
A revised revenue estimate from the Michigan state treasurer will mean less money for the state's schools.
The drop is the first example of what many local school administrators feared when the state moved last year toward a school-funding system based more heavily on state taxes.
Reducing the reliance on property taxes makes all districts more prone to fluctuations in state tax collections.
The revised estimate concludes that about $15.4 billion will be collected by the state in the current fiscal year. That figure is down $47 million from earlier projections.
The estimate also reduced next year's expected revenues by $87 million.
As a result, the state's top financial officers said they would have to reduce the level of per-pupil aid to districts.
While the total will still be about $5,000, Michigan districts will receive $13 less for each student, a change certain to be felt by many districts that had built next year's budget around a higher figure.
Officials said last week that lawmakers were deciding whether they should take action to find replacement money for the schools. The state spends about $8 billion a year on school aid.
Tougher Tenure Terms: Alaska lawmakers have passed a bill that would require teachers to work two more years before becoming eligible for tenure and would give school districts more flexibility to fire tenured teachers.
The state's teachers now become eligible for tenure after two years of teaching, and in most cases districts can fire tenured teachers only when enrollment drops.
The bill would extend to four years the experience needed for teachers to receive tenure, and would also allow administrators to fire tenured teachers in districts where the state education commissioner declared a "financial emergency."
The measure would also tinker with the appeals process for fired tenured teachers and allow districts to set up an optional early-retirement program.
The state's largest teachers' union fought vociferously against the bill, facing off against the school boards' association, which supported it.
A spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles said last week that the Democratic Governor had not yet decided whether he would sign the bill.
Mandates Bill Advances: The Ohio House has passed and sent to the Senate a bill to free schools from various state mandates.
The bill would ease state requirements on student assessments, proficiency testing, student-activity programs, and other district activities. It also would limit the types of student records the state collects from districts.
Parents, for example, would be allowed to withhold their child's Social Security number. Some districts have complained that the state's collection of some student records violates the privacy of parents and students.
Nepotism Ban Dismissed: A judge who once represented clients state education officials had targeted for ouster under Kentucky's school-reform law has declared anti-nepotism provisions of the law unconstitutional.
Circuit Judge John David Caudill of Floyd County issued a permanent injunction this month that allows two parent members of local school councils to keep their seats. Both had been removed by the state because their wives are secretaries at a third school.
Judge Caudill ruled that the nepotism provisions of the law are too broad and treat parent members of school councils differently from teacher members. Under Kentucky's 1990 school-reform act, schools are governed by councils made up of the principal, parents, and teachers.
Before becoming a local judge, Mr. Caudill had represented a principal and board member targeted by the state under the reform law and had criticized the broad sweep of the law. (See Education Week, 12/9/92.)
Slow Progress on Funding: In the two years since Massachusetts' highest court ruled the state's school-finance system unconstitutional, the legislature has failed to fix the problem, the plaintiffs in the original finance suit have charged.
In a motion filed May 10 in Supreme Judicial Court in Boston, the plaintiffs asked the court to set a deadline by which the legislature would have to take further action to create a more equitable school-finance system.
The plaintiffs in the class action known as McDuffy v. Robertson are schoolchildren from underfunded districts.
"The commonwealth continues to provide inadequate state funds to compensate for the relatively low fiscal capacity of the communities in which the plaintiffs attend school," the group's motion states.
The plaintiffs contend that a 1993 education-reform law, which significantly altered the school-funding formula, was insufficient to meet the high court's mandate.
The high court ruled in 1993 that Massachusetts was failing in its constitutional duty to educate students "whether they be rich or poor." (See Education Week, 6/23/93.)
Vol. 14, Issue 35