News in Brief
Colo. Law Relaxes Limits On Juvenile Crime Records
Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado signed a bill into law last week that allows school districts to share information about students who have posed disciplinary problems and to obtain certain juvenile criminal records.
Under the law, parents must be given the opportunity to discuss disciplinary charges with school officials and challenge them.
The law requires local courts to release records on convicted juvenile offenders to districts and to notify schools that students who commit certain crimes are subject to mandatory expulsion. A 1993 law mandates expulsion for students who are convicted of certain offenses, including robbery, possession of a deadly weapon, or possession of illegal drugs.
The new law breezed through both houses of the legislature last month.
"This bill helps districts identify students' needs so that parents, teachers, and students can work together to make sure schools are safe places to learn," a spokesman for the governor said.
The Tennessee legislature has passed a bill that would require one-year expulsions of students who physically assault other students or teachers, or who bring an illegal drug or firearm to school.
The House ratified the Student and Employee Safe Environment Act of 1996 on April 23 by a vote of 96-0. The Senate approved the bill April 18 by a 30-0 margin. Gov. Don Sundquist, a Republican, is expected to sign the legislation.
Local superintendents can modify the punishment on a case-by-case basis, however.
The bill would also direct school systems to adopt discipline and behavior codes, make principals responsible for administering those standards, and require guest passes for school visitors.
The legislative action follows last November's fatal shootings in a Giles County high school of a teacher and student.
"This sends a strong message to Tennessee students that there are certain things that won't be tolerated in the schools," said Jerry Winters, the director of government affairs for the Tennessee Education Association, the state's major teachers' union.
Omnibus Bill in Okla.
A $106 million education bill that would boost state teacher salaries and school aid and alter policy on textbook adoption is nearing passage in the Oklahoma legislature.
Some educators view it as an extension of the massive education-reform law that was enacted in 1990.
The House passed the omnibus bill last month, and the Senate cleared its version in March. A conference committee must still work out differences between the two versions, and the legislature must still appropriate the money to fund the bill.
A spokesman for Gov. Frank Keating said last week the Republican governor would wait to see the final bill before taking a position.
The bills contain separate plans for boosting the salaries of veteran teachers whose districts pay them on the state minimum-salary schedule, and both would alter the state-aid formula to send more money to districts that see significant growth in student enrollment.
The bills would also remove the authority of the state textbook committee to approve texts and instead allow the panel to recommend texts to districts. Committee members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate; a majority are teachers.
The bill passed by the House would double the allocation of state funding for textbooks from $25 to $50 per student.
There are other differences, as well. For example, the House eliminated a Senate provision that would allow interdistrict public school choice.
Essay questions from the Indiana statewide student assessment that were once the target of a lawsuit have been released by education officials.
The essay questions used in the March 1996 testing cycle were the focus of four freshman Republican lawmakers who tried unsuccessfully to block their use because they felt the questions were too personal.
The topics of the controversial questions, which were made available to the public last month, ranged from friendship to the influence of modern inventions.
The state test is given each year to 3rd, 6th, and 10th graders. Next fall the test will expand to include 8th graders.