04/1998 School Choice Roundup
Working for the Government Charged
Three Alabama citizens filed suit on January 20 against 21 state legislators, accusing them of violating the state constitution's prohibition of conflict of interest and also its doctrine of separation of powers. The lawsuit claims it is illegal for the legislators to work for state-financed public schools or colleges while also working as state lawmakers. The suit demands that the legislators be removed from whichever of the two jobs they held first. All but one of the defendants are educators, including three public school administrators and two pre-collegiate teachers.
Riding Shotgun in LA Schools
In a 5-2 vote, the Los Angeles Unified School District board on February 23 agreed to arm the cars used by the District's police officers with 12-gauge shotguns, after officers spoke of the increasing danger they face in the neighborhoods around the school campuses.
"If it would help one student or one parent, it's worth 100 shotguns," said board member Barbara Boudreaux, who supported the measure. "If we think we live in a safe city, where officers don't need guns, then we're living in an unreality."
Arguing against the decision, Board President Julie Korenstein said "Our officers need to be role models, not in the position of taking someone out."
Los Angeles Times
Schools Impatient for New Certification Rules
School districts with teacher shortages are waiting for the Illinois State Board of Education to draft rules that would allow college graduates without education degrees to teach in Illinois school districts. Under an alternative teaching certification law, prospective teachers receive a one-year provisional teaching certificate after taking an eight-week program in educational theory, teaching methods, and teaching practice. Although Chicago will begin the program this summer, rules have not yet been written for the rest of the state.
Union Packs Mayor's Chat Room
Although the Indiana State Teachers Association tried to "pack" the Internet "chat room" where Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith was conducting a one-hour discussion on education, the union found Goldsmith--a school choice advocate--well-prepared for its questions. The mayor invited the union to help him "find ways to maximize teacher authority, cut non-teacher expenses, increase technology."
Packing the chat room did not endear the union to other participants. "Next time, let's see if we can get some union folks in here," wrote one sarcastically. "Really wasn't fair to shut them out."
The Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué
Teachers Receive Internet Subsidies
For at least the next three years, home access to the Internet by teachers in Massachusetts will be subsidized by taxpayers at a cost of $3.7 million, with free access until September and a $25 per year charge after that. By contrast, the popular America Online service now charges $21.95 per month for access.
"I envisioned teachers using the Internet to access the Red Sox web page," said Education Commissioner Robert V. Antonucci. "But teachers consistently told me that the Internet adds another teaching tool in an educator's bag of tricks."
A computer analysis conducted by The Tampa Tribune showed that more than 40 percent of district administrators used their Internet access at work to track personal investments, hunt jobs, shop, or keep up with their favorite sports teams.
The Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué
New Immigrants Practice School Choice
When U.S. immigrants find conditions for raising their children not to their liking, many of them exercise a school choice option unavailable to native-born Americans: They send their children back to attend school in their home country. For example, as many as 10,000 students from immigrant U.S. families--mostly from the New York metropolitan area--are enrolled in schools in the Dominican Republic, according to estimates from educators and government officials. At the Santiago Christian School, more than 20 percent of the student body are American-born reverse immigrants.
The New York Times
School Spending 20 Percent Higher than Reported
The per-pupil operating costs reported for each school district by the Ohio State Department of Education under-report total spending by almost 20 percent. Operating costs in Ohio were $5,545 per pupil for Fiscal Year 1996, but when almost $2 billion of additional capital spending and debt service expenditures are included, the per-student figure reaches $6,625. While Ohio school districts reported spending $9.9 billion in the 1995-96 school year, the actual spending funded by taxpayers was closer to $11.8 billion.
The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions
Prison for Former Superintendent
As a result of a corruption investigation she herself launched last year, former Dallas Schools Superintendent Yvonne Gonzalez was sentenced in February to 15 months in prison for using public funds to purchase bedroom and office furniture. A week later, the Dallas school board agreed to pay chief financial officer Matthew Harden Jr. $600,000 in return for his resignation and for dropping two $10 million lawsuits.
Thirteen employees from Harden's department were convicted as a result of the fraud and abuse probe initiated by Gonzalez, the district's first Hispanic superintendent. Harden clashed with Gonzalez, charging her with defamation and sexual harassment, while accusing the board of trying to fire him and ruin his career because he is black.
School Board Benefits Questioned
At $3,900 a year plus travel expenses, members of the school board in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis are not paid as much as the school teachers in their district, but they do receive one of the teachers' most valuable benefits: full health and dental insurance coverage. According to board member Paul Beyerl, many other part-time employees in the district also receive the same full coverage.
Beyerl contends that board members are effectively put on both sides of the table during collective bargaining, in effect "negotiating with the union for benefits that they themselves will receive."
West Allis Taxpayers Association