D.C. Board Slashes Fund

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The District of Columbia school board has cut $1 million from its current fiscal year funding for substitute teachers, a move that will severely restrict the use of substitutes for the rest of this semester.

The board's March 5 decision was part of a larger effort to make up a $30 million shortfall in the 81,000-student district's budget. The cuts should keep the system within the $491 million target established by the city's federally appointed financial-control board.

The cut leaves about $800,000 in the fund, enough to assure substitutes during long-term absences, board member Jay Silberman said.

Other cost-cutting measures passed last week by the board included the closing of a dozen schools by the end of the next fiscal year, elimination of funding for staff-development programs, and increasing the teacher-student ratio by two students in grades K-9 and by four students for grades 10-12. The board rejected a plan to shorten pre-kindergarten programs to half a day.

Plan To End Busing: The Pittsburgh school district has announced a redistricting plan that would end court-ordered busing in the city, assigning students instead to neighborhood schools.

District officials announced the proposal last month. They would reorganize the city into nine clusters, schooling students as close to home as possible.

Under the new plan, 45 percent of students would attend schools that meet 1980 state desegregation guidelines, compared with 58 percent now. Racially isolated schools with underachieving students would receive additional resources.

Pending school board approval next month, students will be reassigned in the 1996-97 school year. The court allows some degree of flexibility in racial balance; court approval for the change is not necessary.

St. Louis Desegregation

Lawyers have begun presenting their case in federal court in Missouri in a hearing to decide whether to abandon school-desegregation efforts in St. Louis.

For 15 years, 13,000 black students have been bused from urban St. Louis to schools in outlying St. Louis County, where white students make up a majority, in an effort to provide racial balance and educational equity between the two systems.

The district court judge will hear state Attorney General Jay Nixon's arguments for dismantling over the next three years the costly court-ordered desegregation effort.

Principal Training

The Chicago school board has struck a $1.2 million deal with the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association to create an academy to provide management training to the district's principals.

Approved by the board last month, the Chicago School Leadership Academy will allow about 250 administrators from the 413,000-student district to take part in workshops and seminars each year.

"We're trying to get a mix so we have some outstanding principals and some in need of remediation," said Beverly Tunney, the president of the principals' association. Eventually, she said, the association would like all of the city's 557 principals take part in the training.

The academy is part of an overall push this year to improve the training of the city's principals, most of whom have less than three years' experience in their current positions, Ms. Tunney said.

Virus Outbreak

An outbreak of hepatitis A in southern Alabama has prompted two county school districts there to redouble efforts to teach students proper hygiene.

Since Jan. 1, the outbreak in Baldwin and Mobile counties has totaled 41 cases, 18 of them among school-age children.

Careful hand-washing after using the bathroom is the best way to curb the spread of the hepatitis A virus, said Paulette Wilson, the director of epidemiology with the Mobile County health department. Officials have no indication that the infection is being spread in the schools, she said. In Mobile, infection through family contact is suspected. However, health officials sent letters home to the parents of students in the schools where cases have appeared.

Religious-School Request

Parents in a Vermont district have petitioned the state school board for financial aid that would allow their daughter to attend a religious school.

The Mendon school district earlier this year denied a request from Kenneth and Maryanne Garrow for payment of their daughter's tuition to a nearby Roman Catholic school. The town does not have its own high school, so it pays tuition for 60 students to attend nonsectarian private schools in nearby Rutland.

The Garrows filed their petition last month.

Vol. 15, Issue 25

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