News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Ed. Dept. Offers Break On Loans in Attack Areas

The U.S. Department of Education is giving a break on student-loan repayments to New Yorkers and others directly affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The agency has directed its lenders and holders of federal student loans to grant "mandatory administrative forbearance" to borrowers who live or work in the New York City disaster area, which includes all five boroughs of the city. That move allows the borrowers to postpone or reduce the amount of their monthly payments through January.

Forbearance may also be granted to anyone outside the New York area who was directly affected by the attacks, which also struck the Pentagon, outside Washington.

"We're very much about the business of helping folks get their lives back together," Deputy Secretary of Education William D. Hansen said in a conference call to reporters last week.

The Education Department, meanwhile, released data showing that the default rate on federal student loans has dropped to its lowest point ever: 5.6 percent in fiscal 1999, compared with 6.9 percent in fiscal 1998.

Joetta L. Sack

Atlanta Superintendent Awarded Salary Bonus

As she starts her third year as the superintendent of schools in Atlanta, Beverly L. Hall is receiving high marks from the city's school board.

The board approved a $47,520 bonus for Ms. Hall last week after determining that she had met or exceeded 30 of 45 board-established goals over the past year. The goals covered a wide range of criteria for the 58,000-student district, including attendance rates and student performance in mathematics.

Ms. Hall, who served as Newark, N.J.'s state-appointed superintendent before taking the Atlanta job in 1999, earns $165,000 annually. Ms. Hall also received a bonus last year.

Karla Scoon Reid

Milwaukee Spec. Ed. Students Sue School District, State

A 17-year-old student in special education was left alone to watch the television program "Teletubbies" and color pictures during class time, rather than work on meeting the academic goals in his individual education plan, according to a class action filed against the Milwaukee school district and the Wisconsin education department.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 13 in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, names seven students as plaintiffs. They claim the school system has repeatedly violated federal law by failing to provide the district's 16,000 special education students with an appropriate education.

After receiving a letter from the plaintiffs' lawyers outlining the complaints last year, the state education department failed to provide a special master or court-appointed expert to monitor the 100,000-student district's special education program, the suit contends.

Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy, a nonprofit organization representing the plaintiffs, said that special education students are shuffled from school to school with improper placements, and are excessively removed from school through suspensions, expulsions, or calls to parents to take their children home.

Don Hoffman, a spokesman for the district, said he had no comment on the lawsuit. Officials at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction did not return phone calls.

—Lisa Fine

Teenagers' Favorite Classes Differ by Gender

Asked to pick their favorite classes, boy and girl students ages 14 to 18 showed different preferences in a poll by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.

SOURCE: "State of Our Nation's Youth 2001-2002," Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc.

Report Finds 12 Percent Rise In Number of Charter Schools

The number of charter schools nationwide has increased by 12 percent this school year over the previous year, according to the Center for Education Reform, a Washington-based group that advocates school choice.

The center counts 2,372 charter schools operating in 34 states and the District of Columbia, with 70 more schools approved to open next year. This school year, it says, 369 charter schools opened.

According to the center's estimate, the schools serve more than 576,000 students.

States with the most students attending charter schools are California, with 129,163; Arizona, with 78,517; Michigan, with 55,526; Texas, with 53,523; and Florida with 37,587.

Ann Bradley

Colorado High Court Allows Charters to Sue Districts

Colorado charter schools may sue school districts to enforce the terms of their service contracts, but the state board of education is the final arbiter for certain other disputes between them, the state supreme court ruled last week.

The court ruled 6-0 on Sept. 17 that the state legislature intended for charter schools to be able to sue districts over contracts that establish per- pupil funding and such services as payroll and building maintenance.

"If a charter school claims that the local school district has failed to provide specific services for which both parties contracted, the process for resolution ... looks to the judicial system," said the opinion by Justice Alex J. Martinez of the Colorado Supreme Court.

However, the court held that charter schools may not sue districts for disputes over such matters as curriculum, student-performance standards, and employment policies. The legislature intended such "governing policy" issues to be addressed in an alternative dispute-resolution process and ultimately by the state school board, the court said.

The case grew out of a long-running contractual dispute between a 700-student charter school called the Academy of Charter Schools and the 29,000-student Adams County School District 12.

—Mark Walsh

Md. Vetoes District Plan For More Reading Time

The Anne Arundel County, Md., school district will have to find another way to fit more reading instruction into the middle school curriculum.

Shifting time away from physical education, arts, and health classes for reading violates state law, the Maryland board of education has ruled.

The board informed officials of the 74,000-student school system this month that all students are required to take the classes, which county officials had viewed as electives. The district's new reading program for 6th graders calls for two consecutive periods of reading instruction.

"Parents were concerned because it appeared that the extra time focused on reading would diminish and maybe even eliminate band programs and physical education," said Ronald A. Peiffer, an assistant state superintendent.

The state board has instructed the district to come up with a plan for reinstating the classes by January.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Illinois Board Backs Principal After Sex-Change Protests

An Illinois school board last week reaffirmed its decision to back a middle school principal who underwent a sex-change operation.

Some 30 to 35 parents in the suburban Chicago community of Wilmette had called for the dismissal of Deanna Reed as principal of the 250-student Marie Murphy Middle School.

Jeff Atkinson, the vice president of the board for the 700-student Avoca District No. 37, said the board voted to stick with its decision to hire an $80,000-a- year liaison between Ms. Reed and the students. Carol Rak was hired in July, a week after Ms. Reed notified parents of her operation. Ms. Reed, who has been principal of the school for 12 years, is also the district's assistant superintendent.

Mr. Atkinson said three parents have told him they intend to withdraw their children from the school.

—Mark Stricherz

Vol. 21, Issue 4, Page 4

Published in Print: September 26, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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