News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Science Textbooks Would Acknowledge God Under Measure Passed by Oklahoma House

A bill requiring that Oklahoma's science textbooks acknowledge "that human life was created by one God of the Universe" is expected to be taken up by a conference committee representing both chambers of the legislature in the coming weeks.

The proposal unanimously passed the House of Representatives on April 5, as an amendment to a Senate bill that would revise qualifications for the state's 13-member textbook committee.

The House version of the measure would also authorize the committee to place "a one-page summary, opinion, or disclaimer" into all textbooks.

Last November, the textbook committee voted to add anti- evolution disclaimers to public school biology texts. But Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson later issued an opinion that the governor-appointed panel lacked authority to alter texts with disclaimers of any sort.

In an interview, Carolyn Crowder, the president of the Oklahoma Education Association, which represents about 60 percent of the state's 41,000 teachers, charged legislators with "using God and religion and instruction as a political football—grabbing headlines to help them next November."

—Andrew Trotter

Survey Predicts More Teacher Vacancies in New York

Two new surveys show that a teacher shortage in New York state will hit sooner and harder than previously reported, according to officials of New York State United Teachers, which commissioned the surveys.

Of the 639 veteran teachers age 50 or over who were polled, almost three-quarters said they were likely to retire within the next five years. The survey of 602 teachers with two to five years' experience indicated that nearly one-third were likely to leave their jobs within the next five years.

Based on the surveys and other data, the 430,000- member union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, projects that New York's public schools will need to fill more than 100,000 teacher vacancies over the next five years. Previous estimates had pointed to 70,000 to 100,000 openings over the next decade, the union said.

Both new and veteran teachers overwhelmingly named inadequate salaries as the No. 1 reason they would leave, according to the studies. The union, which held its annual convention last week, has been pushing for more competitive salaries.

— Bess Keller

State Chiefs' Group Gains New Texas Commissioner

Texas Commissioner of Education James E. Nelson has become the eighth state schools chief to join the Education Leaders Council, a break-away group of school officials whose priorities include strong accountability systems and charter schools.

Mr. Nelson, an Odessa, Texas, lawyer, chaired the state's teacher-licensing board until he was appointed to head the Texas school system last summer by Gov. George W. Bush, a Republican.

"We have been very impressed with ELC's leadership and with the impact they are having at the national level," Mr. Nelson said in a statement. "ELC gives us a vehicle to further advance [our] ideals."

Mr. Nelson will continue to belong to the Council of Chief State School Officers, the group that has traditionally represented state schools chiefs. The ELC, based in Washington, was formed in 1995. In addition to the state chiefs of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and now Texas, its membership includes state and local education officials from 31 states.

—Bess Keller

Arizona Enacts Law Aimed at Making Schools Safer

Arizona Gov. Jane Dee Hull signed a school safety bill last week aimed at helping prevent and respond to incidents like last year's shootings in neighboring Colorado's Columbine High School.

"School violence is a plague in our society right now, and we must do what we can to protect our students and their teachers," the governor, a Republican, said in an April 10 statement.

The law appropriates $770,0000 to assign more safety and probation officers to schools, and requires districts to craft emergency-response plans for every school.

The legislation also provides $150,000 for a school-safety- information clearinghouse, a World Wide Web site, and a survey of school administrators on their safety needs. And it broadens the reasons districts can use to expel disruptive students.

—Darcia Bowman Harris

Vol. 19, Issue 32, Page 34

Published in Print: April 19, 2000, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
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