Special Education

News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

July 11, 2001 4 min read
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Schundler, McGreevey To Meet
In New Jersey Governor’s Race

Bret D. Schundler won New Jersey’s Republican gubernatorial primary late last month, virtually guaranteeing that he and Democratic primary winner James M. McGreevey will battle over education in the months leading up to November’s general election. Bret D. Schundler won New Jersey’s Republican gubernatorial primary late last month, virtually guaranteeing that he and Democratic primary winner James M. McGreevey will battle over education in the months leading up to November’s general election.

Mr. Schundler, who until this month was the mayor of Jersey City, N.J., soundly defeated former U.S. Rep. Bob Franks. Mr. McGreevey, the mayor of Woodbridge, N.J., had faced only token opposition in his quest for the Democratic nomination. Mr. McGreevey narrowly lost the governor’s race four years ago to then-Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who left office earlier this year to head the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr. Schundler waged his primary campaign largely on the promise of lower taxes. But he is a high-profile advocate of school choice, and with polls indicating that education is a top concern among voters, many expect education to be a major issue in the campaign.

Mr. Schundler favors charter schools and vouchers that would provide public money for poor parents to send their children to religious and other private schools. During the primary campaign, he argued that his plan to expand school choice through tax credits for private scholarship funds, such as one he set up in 1995, would save the state $480 million in education costs. He would target that money for property- tax relief.

Mr. McGreevey is opposed to any form of vouchers, advocating instead a sweeping review of the state’s standards and testing system and a sharper focus on teacher education and training.

—Bess Keller


Exit Exams for Disabled Upheld in Ind.

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently upheld a state board of education requirement that students with disabilities pass the state’s high school graduation test to receive a diploma.

“We are obviously very happy with the decision,” Marc Steczyk, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education, said of the court’s June 20 opinion. “But I don’t foresee there ever being an end to [the conflict over the diploma requirement]. There will always be that student or parent who thinks what we are doing is wrong.”

Indiana Civil Liberties Union lawyers, who filed a class action against the state in 1998 on behalf of students with disabilities, said they intend to appeal the decision to the state supreme court. They were not available for further comment.

ICLU lawyers had argued that students with disabilities relied on individualized education plans that were tailored to their particular educational needs and not geared toward passing the high school exit exam. (“Indiana Case FocusesOn Special Ed.,” May 31, 2000.)

Lawyers for the state had argued that students were given remedial instruction and multiple opportunities to pass the test. The ruling upholds a lower-court decision, also in the state’s favor.

—Lisa Fine


Anti-Bilingual-Ed. Measure Filed in Colo.

Ron K. Unz and Rita Montero, a former board member of the Denver public schools, have jointly announced the filing of two different versions of an anti-bilingual-education measure they hope will be placed on the Colorado ballot in November 2002.

Mr. Unz is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has financially backed successful campaigns in California and Arizona to curtail bilingual education. In bilingual education programs, students are taught some subjects in their native languages while learning English.

Both drafts of the proposed Colorado measure, filed last month, call for English-language learners to be “educated through sheltered English immersion during a temporary transition period not normally intended to exceed one year.” They contain much of the same language as the anti-bilingual- education initiatives passed by voters in California and Arizona.

The two versions of the measure in Colorado differ from each other only in that one calls for a program to teach English to immigrant adults in the state in addition to children, and the other is confined to students in grades K- 12.

Ms. Montero said while she doesn’t philosophically oppose bilingual education, she believes the method has been unsuccessful because school districts can’t seem to find enough well-qualified bilingual education teachers to make the approach work.

“It’s more realistic to think a school district can do a better job if you give it an English teacher who is qualified to teach English as a second language,” she said.

Ms. Montero is the chairwoman of English for the Children of Colorado, an affiliate of the Los Angeles-based English for the Children founded by Mr. Unz.

—Mary Ann Zehr

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