News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Michigan Strikes Deal On Charter Schools

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm and leaders of Michigan's legislature have reached a long-sought agreement that could add as many as 150 charter schools in the state over the next decade.

The deal, forged last week by the Democratic governor and the Republican heads of the House and the Senate, still must win passage in the Republican- controlled legislature.

In addition to raising the cap on the number of charters that can be sponsored by universities, the agreement would allow 15 charter high schools in Detroit; set aside another 10 of the 150 total for high schools; and earmark $15 million for districts that are losing students, and would lose even more, to charters.

The deal, according to a spokesman for Speaker of the House Rick Johnson, a Republican, would also restore an elected school board to Detroit while giving Democratic Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick veto power over the board's selection of a superintendent.

Finally, the plan would provide $200,000 more annually to the state education department for charter oversight and would curb the existing authority of Bay Mills Tribal Community College to charter an unlimited number of schools. ("Mich. Tribe at Center of Charter School Debate," Aug. 6, 2003.)

—Bess Keller

Kentucky School Coalition Files Lawsuit on Funding

A coalition representing a majority of Kentucky's school districts filed a lawsuit last week against the state legislature, charging that lawmakers have violated their constitutional duties by failing to provide K-12 schools with sufficient funding.

The Council for Better Education, a nonprofit organization that represents 164 of the state's 176 districts, filed the legal action in Franklin County Circuit Court on Sept. 17. The lawsuit contends that state lawmakers have a legal obligation to provide primary and secondary schools with more money, as guaranteed in a 1989 state supreme court decision.

The lawsuit specifies that the state's funding of education was at least $892 million short during the 2002 fiscal year, according to the guidelines set by the state's high court more than a decade ago. The action names state Senate President David L. Williams, a Republican, and Speaker of the House Jody Richards, a Democrat, as defendants, as representatives of the legislature.

—Sean Cavanagh

Some 7th Graders in N.H. To Get Laptops From State

Five New Hampshire school districts will be selected later this fall to be the first in the state to get laptop computers for every 7th grader.

The plans for the computer giveaway were announced this month by Gov. Craig Benson. The program is modeled on a much larger Maine initiative to provide every 7th grader in that state with a laptop. Pleased with the results, Maine school officials this year are expanding the program to 8th grade.

Gov. Benson, a Republican, said business donors have so far contributed about half the $1.2 million needed to put a more modest program in place in his state. A total of 19 districts have been invited to compete for the computers.

"Technology must be leveraged in a way to enhance the classroom experience and excite the student's passion for learning," said Mr. Benson, a former computer-industry entrepreneur who was elected last November.

State officials have not yet decided whether students will be able to take the computers home.

—Debra Viadero

Washington State Gears Up For New Graduation Exams

It never hurts to get a head start.

At least that is the strategy being followed by a nonprofit education advocacy group in Washington state that is leading a campaign to help prepare students and families for that state's graduation exams that will required for the first time—in 2008.

This month, the Seattle-based Partnership for Learning mailed 90,000 information packets, most of which went to the families of students who will be in the class of 2008. Teachers, state officials, and business leaders were also on the mailing list.

In all, 16 organizations are contributing money, resources, or other support to the effort. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation chipped in $150,000 for the mailing, while the Boeing Co. published brochures, and the state department of education paid to have the material translated into Spanish, Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese.

Next, community meetings will be held to talk about the exams, which will be given to 10th graders in mathematics, reading, and writing in 2006.

—Robert C. Johnston

Ind. Governor Remembered For His Role in Education

Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon of Indiana, who died Sept. 13, is being remembered by educators as having helped the state create a new accountability system for K-12 education.

Gov. Frank L. O'Bannon

The 73-year-old Democrat, who had been elected to a second term as governor in 2000 and had 16 months remaining in his term, died at a hospital in Chicago five days after suffering a stroke. Joseph E. Kernan, a Democrat and Mr. O’Bannon’s lieutenant governor since 1997, was sworn in as governor after Mr. O’Bannon’s death.

With the Indiana superintendent of instruction, Republican Suellen K. Reed, Gov. O’Bannon also started the Education Roundtable, a panel that makes recommendations to the state board of education. The governor was an advocate of early-childhood education and full-day kindergarten.

In 2001, Mr. O’Bannon signed into law a bill that that permitted charter schools in the state.

He also is remembered for inviting all of Indiana’s 4th graders to his swearing-in on Jan. 8, 2001, an invitation that thousands of students took him up on.

Ms. Reed reminisced last week about visiting schools with Mr. O’Bannon. "You know how some people are kind of stiff around kids?" she said. Not so with Gov. O’Bannon.

"He was grandfather," Ms. Reed said. "He enjoyed the kids, and they enjoyed him."

—Mary Ann Zehr

Vol. 23, Issue 4, Page 24

Published in Print: September 24, 2003, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
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