News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Mass. Cites Poor Performance In First Charter School Closure

The Massachusetts board of education for the first time has shut down a charter school, citing lackluster student achievement and administrative problems.

The board voted Feb. 26 to close Lynn Community Charter School, despite the emotional pleas of parents who packed the meeting and urged the state to keep the school open.

David P. Driscoll, the state's education commissioner, had proposed in January to shut down the school.

"This was a most difficult decision to make, but it was the right thing to do," Mr. Driscoll said in a statement. "It is critical that we hold firm on high standards for charter schools."

Board officials said they would work with the school's 265 students to help them make the transition to other schools when the charter school closes at the end of the school year.

James A. Peyser, the president of the state board, praised the hard work of the school's staff, but cited sagging achievement as a reason to close the school. He referred to testing data reviewed by the board showing that student performance in the 15,069-student Lynn public schools was generally better than performance at the charter school.

"The process for renewing a charter is not about plans and promises, it is about results," Mr. Peyser said at the board meeting.

—John Gehring

Mississippi Schools Face Cuts, Deficits

Facing $62 million in midyear budget cuts proposed by Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Mississippi school districts rallied last week at the state Capitol to shore up support for school funding.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove

About 200 superintendents and school board members turned out in an effort to convince lawmakers that education funding must be bolstered—not cut—to meet the demands of the state's accountability system, which hits full stride this year, said David Watkins, the general counsel for both the Mississippi school boards' and superintendents' associations.

If you "expect us to be accountable" and improve education in one of the nation's poorest states, Mr. Watkins said of lawmakers, "you have to pay for it."

It appears that the lobbying is working. The state Senate voted Feb. 28 to restore the nearly $51 million in current- year budget cuts to the state's $1.48 billion K-12 budget for fiscal 2002. If the House does not follow the Senate's lead and restore the cuts, however, some Mississippi school district budgets will have to scale back on programs this year, and would likely begin the fall with deficits, Mr. Watkins said. That could mean layoffs and additional cuts in programs, he added.

—Alan Richard

South Dakota Reverses Law On Foreign Languages

South Dakota Gov. William Janklow, a Republican, has signed a bill that allows the state's board of regents to mandate the study of foreign languages as a high school graduation requirement.

In 1986, lawmakers in the rural state rejected the idea because local schools lacked the budgets and personnel to meet such a mandate and went on to bar the regents from mandating a foreign language requirement.

But the state's Digital Dakota Network, which enables teachers to teach classes hundreds of miles away through high-speed videoconferencing, changed the legislative landscape in favor of the bill, said Sen. John R. McIntyre, a Democratic member of the Senate education committee.

This new law repeals the 1986 law.

But there won't be changes for high school graduation anytime soon, Sen. McIntyre predicted. The new law just levels the playing field for academic subjects.

"If the state board wants to make it a requirement in the future, they can do so," he said. "They don't have to fight the legislature on this now."

—Rhea R. Borja

Vol. 21, Issue 25, Page 25

Published in Print: March 6, 2002, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
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