News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Calif. Appeals-Court Ruling Bolsters Proposition 227

California districts cannot seek exemptions from a statewide measure aimed at virtually eliminating bilingual education, a state appeals court ruled last week.

The Sept. 27 decision strengthens the reach of Proposition 227, a ballot initiative approved by voters last year that requires that public school students be taught primarily in English.

The court ruled that only individual parents and students, not whole districts, can seek waivers that allow students to stay in bilingual classes.

Proposition 227 states that schools can grant such waivers if students are older than 10 or have special needs.

The decision overturns an August 1998 decision by Alameda County Judge Henry Needham that allowed districts to ask for the waivers. ("Calif. Awaits School Board's Action on Prop. 227 Waivers," Sept. 9, 1998.) The state school board has refused to consider districts' waiver requests while the court proceedings continued.

--Jessica L. Sandham

Md. Considers School Takeovers

Nancy S. Grasmick

Maryland is preparing to take control of some of the its lowest-performing schools.

The state school board recently began accepting proposals for third-party management and administration of 35 schools that became eligible for intervention in the mid-1990s after several years of poor test scores.

The board will consider overhauling only those schools that have failed to improve despite having received extra money and other support, said state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.

Maryland officials plan to announce in January which schools will be "reconstituted" under new management.

"If we don't see a school making progress after that amount of time, the question becomes 'what's next?' " Ms. Grasmick said. "You can't have an effective accountability system without having a bottom line. This is the bottom line."

--Jessica L. Sandham

Texas To Probe Districts' Records

A Texas task force will study reports that some school districts have altered data on state tests, fudged dropout rates, and misrepresented their administrative costs.

The new panel represents a stepped-up interest in education by state Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander.

"As the education watchdog for the people of Texas, I am a staunch believer in the public education system and a staunch believer in public accountability," Ms. Rylander, a Republican, said in a statement.

The seven-member task force named late last month will report its findings next August. Recommendations will be sent to the legislature.

Several Texas districts were reprimanded last year after investigations found that they had tinkered with test and attendance data to improve their state ratings.

--Robert C. Johnston

U.S. Intervenes in Kansas Funding Suit

The U.S. Department of Justice has urged a federal judge to hear a lawsuit backed by 14 Kansas districts that claims the state's school aid system discriminates against minority and disabled students.

"We are gratified," said Kelly Johnson, a Wichita lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs. "They're saying, 'Hey, this has merit.' "

After the suit was filed in May in U.S. District Court in Wichita, the state filed a motion to dismiss the case.

But in two briefs filed late last month, the Justice Department argued for the case to move forward.

U.S. District Judge J.Thomas Marten is expected to rule by year's end whether to proceed with a hearing.

--Robert C. Johnston

Vol. 19, Issue 6, Page 24

Published in Print: October 6, 1999, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
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