News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Florida Plan To Omit Race, Gender as Factors In College Admissions Wins Final Approval

The Florida board of education gave final approval last week to ending racial and gender preferences in college admissions, clearing the way for the policy to take effect for students entering the state's 10 public colleges and universities next fall.

Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, who acts as the chairman of the state school board, cast a yes vote for his controversial proposal, said Keith Goldschmidt, a spokesman for the Florida board of regents, which oversees higher education. One member of the seven-member board was absent for the 4-2 vote on Feb. 22.

The regents had approved the plan unanimously on Feb. 17. ("Plan To Ban Race in Admissions to Fla. Colleges Clears Regents," Feb. 23, 2000.) State law also required approval by the board of education, which oversees K-12 and higher education.

The plan replaces affirmative action with the "Talented 20" program, a mandate to colleges and universities to admit all Florida seniors who graduate in the top 20 percent of their high school classes, without regard to their grades or standardized-test scores. Students are eligible, however, only if they have taken 10 specified courses in high school.

—Julie Blair

California's Education Secretary Stepping Down

California Secretary of Education Gary K. Hart will leave his state Cabinet post March 15. In announcing his plans, he said he wanted to return to the classroom and spend more time with his family.

Many credit Mr. Hart as being instrumental in generating support for a series of education proposals introduced by Gov. Gray Davis and enacted by the legislature last spring. Mr. Hart left a 20-year career as a state lawmaker in 1995 to help found the Institute for Education Reform at California State University-Sacramento. He left that post when Mr. Davis, a Democrat, asked him to serve last year. ("California Ed. Secretary Is Seen as 'Oasis of Sanity,'" Dec. 8, 1999.) Mr. Davis said in a statement that Mr. Hart had made clear in accepting the job that he would probably stay only a year.

Mr. Hart, who submitted his letter of resignation on Feb. 17, reportedly plans to return to the Sacramento campus, where he teaches a class on public policy.

—Jessica L. Sandham

Wisconsin Changes Rules on Teacher Licensing

New teacher-certification regulations in Wisconsin require that educators show their knowledge and skills through testing and portfolios rather than simply by passing college classes.

The law, five years in the making, went into effect last month following a legally required review by lawmakers, said Peter Burke, the director of the state's teacher and licensing efforts.

Committees made up of classroom teachers, administrators, and representatives from colleges and universities will judge the portfolios of beginning teachers for certification, Mr. Burke said. The work of more seasoned educators will be reviewed by panels of at least three classroom teachers.

The law will be applied to all new teachers in 2004. Educators who are already certified will be able to choose either to renew their licenses under the old system or to complete portfolios.

Currently, new educators must only complete college teacher-preparation programs to earn their licenses. Educators must complete six credit hours of college classes every five years to renew the licenses.

—Julie Blair

Hawaii Works Toward Complying With Spec. Ed. Ruling

Hawaii education officials say they are trying to comply with a court-ordered June 30 deadline to improve mental-health services for students with special needs. But they acknowledge that not all schools will make the necessary improvements in time.

Known as the Felix consent decree, the mandate stems from a 1993 federal lawsuit alleging that the state was failing to identify children with special needs and lacked services to educate them properly.

A court monitor recently concluded that some "complexes"—a term used in Hawaii to refer to a high school and its feeder middle and elementary schools—were already meeting the requirements of the plan, and that several more were "close to compliance," according to the state education department.

Greg Knudsen, a department spokesman, said that the plaintiffs and state officials have been cooperating, and that officials hoped to avoid legal penalties for groups of schools that miss the deadline.

—Linda Jacobson

Vol. 19, Issue 25, Page 23

Published in Print: March 1, 2000, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
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