News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Georgia Schools Chief Loses Bid for Governor
Georgia schools Superintendent Linda C. Schrenko, an outspoken critic of Democratic Gov. Roy E. Barnes' education policies, has lost her bid to face him in the Nov. 5 general election.
Ms. Schrenko, who served two terms as superintendent but cannot run again, received just 28 percent of the vote in the Aug. 20 Republican gubernatorial primary.
Mr. Barnes' Republican opponent in November will be Sonny Perdue, a former state senator who left the Democratic party in 1998.
In the race to replace Ms. Schrenko, Barbara Christmas, who is taking a leave of absence from her position as the executive vice president of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, captured 38 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, and will face Joseph G. Martin—the 1998 Democratic nominee for the post—in a Sept. 10 runoff.
The winner of that race will face Republican nominee Kathy Cox, a high school social studies teacher and a state representative since 1998.
Bilingual Ed. Measure Headed for Colo. Ballot
Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson has announced that a measure to curtail bilingual education in Colorado will appear on the state ballot in November.
Supporters of the measure submitted enough valid signatures for the proposal to be placed on the ballot, said Rose A. Sanchez, a staff member of the election division of the Colorado secretary of state.
The measure calls for K-12 students whose first language isn't English "to be placed in an English-immersion program that is intended to last one year or less."
Meanwhile, opponents have formed a group called English Plus to fight the measure. John D. Britz, the group's campaign consultant, said English Plus is arguing that the measure would reduce parents' ability to choose different options for their children, would create unnecessarily punitive legal consequences for educators who didn't implement the law, and would be costly.
Supporters of the measure have argued that bilingual education, in which students are taught in their native language while learning English, simply hasn't worked in Colorado.
Massachusetts has a similar measure slated for its ballot in November. Voters in California and Arizona have already approved such laws to dismantle bilingual education.
—Mary Ann Zehr
Ohio Lottery Funds Ruled Only for Schools
An Ohio judge has ruled that all of the Buckeye State's lottery profits must be used for education, and not for closing shortfalls in the state's budget.
In legislation passed in December, lawmakers approved Republican Gov. Bob Taft's plan to join a multistate lottery game—Mega Millions—to help balance the state's budget and increase funds for education. While the legislation increased the amount of lottery funds earmarked for education by $41 million, lawmakers decreased the amount of tax dollars dedicated to education by $41 million.
That money helped fill the state's $1.5 billion combined budget deficit for the 2002 and 2003 fiscal years.
Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Daniel T. Hogan ruled on July 15 that the state's accounting practices were unconstitutional because "lottery proceeds cannot be used to resolve the state's budget problems relating to noneducation expenditures." A 1988 amendment to the state constitution requires that all lottery profits be used for K-12 education.
The Ohio Roundtable, a conservative nonprofit group that opposes gambling, filed the lawsuit in January along with the United Methodist Church. David Zanotti, the president of the Ohio Roundtable, called the government's budget transfers a "shell game."
The plaintiffs will appeal the decision.
—Karla Scoon Reid
Full-Day Kindergarten Suffers Cut in Mass.
Facing diminishing state revenues, acting Gov. Jane M. Swift of Massachusetts has used her emergency powers to withhold $3.5 million devoted to full-day kindergarten programs.
The cut represents a 12 percent across-the-board reduction for each of the 143 school districts around the state that offer full-day kindergarten.
It could have been worse. Local educators were worried that the entire program would be slashed last month. State lawmakers overrode Ms. Swift's veto of the program and voted to provide full funding for the $28 million all-day kindergarten grant program.
The decision to scale back funding of the program came just before the start of classes in the Bay State and had some educators worrying about tinkering with budgets on such short notice.
But Heidi Perlman, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Education, said the cuts would have a minimal effect.
"Overall, this will have little impact on programs," she said. "While some may need to cut a few aides down to four days instead of five, this new budget decision means full- day kindergarten will continue in Massachusetts, and that's what is important."
Ms. Swift, who is not a candidate in this fall's gubernatorial election, has pledged to try to restore kindergarten funds if the state's economic climate improves.
Superintendent Named Texas 'Dropout Czar'
He was superintendent in Laredo. Now he is czar in Austin.
Paul A. Cruz has been appointed as the deputy commissioner for dropout prevention and initiatives at the Texas Education Agency, a position colloquially known as "dropout-prevention czar."
Mr. Cruz, 37, left his position as superintendent of the 23,500-student Laredo schools in June, shortly before assuming his new duties.
His task now is to improve the state's graduation rate, and keep more students in school. One of his first goals, Mr. Cruz said, is to get a more clear-cut estimate of the size of the dropout problem in Texas.
A study completed by a nonprofit organization last year for the Dallas Morning News estimated that 20 percent of students who started high school in Texas in 1994 did not graduate within five years. Recent state estimates of that number have been much lower.
NGA, Broad Foundation To Offer States Help
The National Governors Association and the Broad Foundation are teaming up to provide states with resources to understand and meet the requirements of the new federal "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001.
Gov. Paul E. Patton of Kentucky announced the initiative shortly after taking over as the chairman of the NGA during the group's national conference July 13-16 in Boise, Idaho.
One goal of the effort is to highlight and share success stories that states can learn from, and possibly replicate.
As part of the initiative, the NGA and the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation will host a national education summit for governors at the 2003 NGA annual meeting in Indianapolis.
They also will form an institute for governors' education advisers and coordinate a six-state partnership to create policies that have proved successful in turning around struggling schools.
"Our goal is to improve overall system performance while closing persistent gaps in achievement that remain in low-performing schools," Broad Foundation founder Eli Broad said in a statement.
—Robert C. Johnston
Vol. 22, Issue 1, Page 29Published in Print: September 4, 2002, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup