States

News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

June 13, 2001 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Study in Mass. Finds Payoff in Schools Sensitive to Gays

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers who attend Massachusetts schools with instruction about AIDS that is sensitive and appropriate to their needs report a happier and healthier school experience than students in schools with no such program, a study has found.

State education officials see the study as vindicating the state’s initiative aimed at ensuring a safer school environment for homosexual students. The study, published in this month’s edition of the American Journal of Public Health, analyzes the responses of 3,702 students from 54 high schools in the state.

The survey found higher rates of substance abuse, sexual activity, suicidal contemplation, and fears for their own safety among gay, lesbian, and bisexual students than among their heterosexual peers. But those rates were lower at schools that offered “gay sensitive” HIV instruction.

“Our findings strongly suggest that teachers who receive appropriate training, curricula, and materials to provide gay-sensitive instruction in schools can make a difference,” the authors write.

Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll responded to the study by defending his state’s “Safe Schools for Gay and Lesbian Students” program, which provides training for school staff members and services for gay students. He said schools must take steps to reduce harassment of such students.

But Brian Camenker, an outspoken critic of the program, said the findings confirm that researchers have been “co-opted” by the gay-rights movement.

“The safe-schools program is run by homosexual activists trying to convince kids they’re gay,” he asserted. “None of it has any redeeming value.”

In 1993, Massachusetts passed a law aimed at protecting gay students from harassment in school.

The state board of education sparked controversy last year when it adopted regulations updating that law, including beginning the safe-schools program. (“Mass. Stance on Anti-Gay Bias in Schools Stirring Debate,” May 17, 2000.)

—Catherine Gewertz


N.J. Considers Pre-K Hiring Bonuses

Faced with a shortage of preschool teachers next fall in some of the state’s neediest school districts, acting Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco of New Jersey wants to dangle $5 million worth of incentives in front of potential instructors to lure them into the classroom.

His plan was added last month to the proposed fiscal 2001-02 state budget, which is scheduled to be passed later this month by the legislature.

Mr. DiFrancesco, a Republican, wants to give a first-year “cash recruitment bonus” of $3,500 to new preschool teachers and $6,000 for high-achieving college graduates with college grade point averages of 3.0 or above. All newcomers would receive laptop computers to keep as well.

The package also includes other financial incentives worth $6,500 for sub-3.0 teachers and $10,000 for those with higher GPAs. Those benefits, to be paid out over four years, could be used to repay college loans or pay for graduate school.

“If we want all New Jersey students to travel the road to a better life, we need strong, competitive incentives that will help us recruit and retain good preschool teachers,” Mr. DiFrancesco said in a statement.

New Jersey is under a 1998 state supreme court order to provide preschool programs in 30 high-needs school districts that were part of the Abbott v. Burke finance case.

A projected shortage of some 400 teachers in those districts is just one of the problems facing that effort.

Commissioner of Education Vito Gagliardi Sr. has created a stir by relaxing licensure requirements for preschool teachers as a way to address the shortage. Critics say teacher quality is put at risk by the move.

—Robert C. Johnston


New State Board Named in Fla.

Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida announced his appointments last week to the new state board of education, the powerful body that will soon begin overseeing education in the state from preschool to graduate school.

The announcements came as the Republican governor signed a bill that revamps Florida’s education governance system, a process that started with constitutional amendments approved by voters in 1998. Part of the overhaul replaces the current board of education, made up of the seven elected statewide officers known as the governor’s Cabinet, with the appointed board.

The new board will in turn appoint an education commissioner to replace the current elected schools chief, Charlie Crist, in 2003. Last week, the governor named state Sen. Jim Horne as “secretary of education,” an interim post that could lead to the commissioner’s job. Mr. Horne, a Republican, is the chairman of the Senate appropriations committee.

The new board members are: F. Phillip Handy, a GOP activist who headed the education governance task force appointed by the governor; Linda Eads, an education consultant; T. Willard Fair, a former head of the Urban League of Miami; Charles Garcia, a financier and former U. S. Air Force officer; Julia Johnson, a lawyer who has served on the state’s Public Service Commission; Bill Proctor, who is about to retire as the president of Flagler College in St. Augustine; and Carolyn K. Roberts, who serves on Florida’s board of regents, which currently oversees the state university system but will be defunct under the new system.

—Bess Keller


Ky. Adopts Performance Standards

Kentucky schools have new goals to meet in the state’s testing system.

The state board of education adopted a set of standards last week that describes what a school’s students have to do to be ranked in each of the four levels of performance on the state testing system.

Starting with test results from this spring, the performance standards will be the basis for ranking schools, according to Lisa Y. Gross, a spokeswoman for the state education department. By 2014, every school will be expected to have its students scoring at the standards’ “proficient” level in every subject.

The board unanimously adopted the standards, which state officials said were drawn up in working groups that included 1,650 of the state’s teachers.

—David J. Hoff

A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2001 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The Key to Better Learning: Indoor Air Quality
Learn about the importance of improved indoor air quality in schools, and how to pick the right solutions for educators, students, and staff.
Content provided by Delos
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leading Systemic Redesign: Strategies from the Field
Learn how your school community can work together to redesign the school system, reengineer instruction, & co-author personalized learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Educators Weigh K-12 Impact From an Unpredictable Election
Many of the most contentious issues in the 2022 midterms resonate most at the local level.
6 min read
"I Voted" stickers sit in a pile at the Fairview Recreation Center in North Minneapolis.
"I Voted" stickers sit in a pile at the Fairview Recreation Center in North Minneapolis during the midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
Tim Evans/Minnesota Public Radio via AP
States K-12 and the Midterms: What to Watch For
Educators sound off on what the hard-fought midterm elections could mean for K-12 policy.
6 min read
Aidan Lau-Struck, 6, helps his mom Stephanie Lau feed her ballot into the machine at the Brighton Green Community Association voting precinct in North Chesterfield, Va., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
Aidan Lau-Struck, 6, helps his mother, Stephanie Lau, feed her ballot into the machine at the Brighton Green Community Association voting precinct in North Chesterfield, Va., on Election Day.
Eva Russo/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP
States K-12 Insider or Conservative Advocate? Stark Choice in One State Superintendent's Race
A think tank CEO and a high school English teacher battle it out for South Carolina's top K-12 job.
8 min read
Ellen Weaver, the Republican nominee for South Carolina superintendent of education, speaks at U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan's Faith & Freedom BBQ ahead of the keynote speaker, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, in Anderson, S.C.
Ellen Weaver, the Republican nominee for South Carolina superintendent of education, speaks at U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan's Faith & Freedom BBQ in Anderson, S.C.
Meg Kinnard/AP
States School-Related Ballot Measures to Watch This Midterm Election
Voters in six states will decide on issues ranging from more funding for free school meals and the arts to reining in the state board.
7 min read
Image of ballots going into a box.
iStock/Getty