With the help of geographic information systems technology, school officials
can adjust boundaries and see how it affects every student and every
Or they can pinpoint where each third-grader lives or sidewalks under
construction to look at hazardous bus routes.
Last year, Kane County Regional Superintendent of Education officials
began working in conjunction with NorthernIllinoisUniversity faculty to implement the technology in the county's
nine school districts.
"The whole purpose is for the school districts to analyze the information
that's available to them in a visual format," said Phil Morris,
manager of technology at the Kane County Office of Education.
Geographic information systems serve as another tool to help districts
with decision-making, he added.
NIU geography professor Richard Greene began aligning the mammoth amount
of information from student databases with KaneCounty records at West Aurora school
district last spring.
Now, he and NIU intern Martin Pinnau are finishing up Batavia and will move on to Burlington Central next.
"It's a very powerful piece of software," Batavia SuperintendentEdCave said. "It can do almost everything."
The information takes about four to six months to implement and costs
about $9,000 for each school district, Morris said.
Batavia purchased the software, called ArcView, for roughly
$1,500. Last year, Cave and Alan McCloud, Batavia's assistant superintendent for technology, received
training to update the databases.
With training, district officials can apply new census data as well
as incoming and outgoing students to the system.
Across the state, school boards and district administrators are feeling
sick. All that red ink they face in their budgets is enough to make
them ill. Indeed, some districts are fighting for their lives.
Yes, it's that serious. Last year, 82 percent of the public school districts
in Illinois ran budget deficits. Combined, they overspent their
budgets by $2.31 billion.
But wait!There is Gov. Rod Blagojevich
with a cheap pill for whatever ails you. Surely he knows what to do.
He has spent days on end promoting his drug importation plan, grabbing
headlines from one end of the state to another. Just last week for example,
he spent an entire day hawking his I-SaveRx plan, giving his stump speech
at five places. Three speeches were in Chicago, one was in Danville and one was in Clinton.
That makes at least four full days the governor has devoted to promoting
the plan that allows Illinoisans to sign up to get their prescription
medicines through a Canadian company that will connect them with foreign
pharmacies and wholesalers approved by Illinois
health inspectors. Blagojevich promises audiences that his plan could
save them up to 50 percent of what they currently pay for their necessary
That's great, if it works. The cost of prescriptions is too high, and
some very ill people can't afford medicines they need.
The word is out.We all understand
that it was Blagojevich's idea. He'll get the credit if the plan works
and the blame if it doesn't.
Now, let the department that's running the program promote it, while
the governor moves on to other crises.
His "to-do" list should be topped by this item: Solve the
school funding crisis.
There is a reason, of course, why he ignores the red-ink disease that
is spreading through the state's school districts.
Curse this illness will require determination, political skill, time
and leadership. Part of the answer may be found in reforming the state
funding formula to decrease dependence on property taxes while increasing
the income tax to pay for education.
Fixing this situation doesn't lend itself to quick sound bites, as the
prescription drug plan does. But if Blagojevich wants to establish a
track record of meaningful accomplishment during his term as governor,
he'd do well to stop chasing easy headlines and buckle down to the hard
Funding for education took center stage during a forum attended by more
than 50 area residents and local government officials Wednesday on property
The Matteson Area Chamber of Commerce and Rich Township High School
District 227 hosted the forum at RichSouthHigh
The panel agreed that there are flaws in education funding in Illinois, which relies on mostly on property taxes, and discussed
initiatives for tax reform, such as House Bill 750 in the state Legislature.
Boni Fine, president of Midwest Suburban Publishing, which publishes
the Daily Southtown, served as moderator.
"I think there is a consensus that the system is broken and, in
order to have the best fix, it has to have representation of the greatest
amount of taxpayers," Fine said. "In addition, keeping the
issue front and center is important and will lead to meaningful change."
Education in Illinois is primarily funded through property taxes, which
leads to inequity in the quality of education and places a larger amount
of the burden on businesses and low- and middle-income taxpayers, said
panelist Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and
"Illinois relies too heavily on property taxes to fund our public
schools," said panelist Timothy Bramlet, president of the Taxpayers'
Federation of Illinois. "We have school districts (that) are in
If House Bill 750 became law, education would be funded through a 2
percent income tax increase as opposed to property taxes, Martire said.
Sixty percent of taxpayers would see no increase in their taxes because
of the reform, Martire said.
Those who did see an increase would be most able to pay the higher amount,
said panelist Bert Docter, chief executive of Docter Enterprises and
a member of the Illinois State Education Funding Advisory Board.
Businesses also would likely see a decrease in their tax burden, and
the tax would be based on their income as opposed to a "fixed cost
whether or not they are profitable," Martire said.
Several local government officials said they were in favor of tax reform,
such as that proposed in House Bill 750.
Sharon Filkins Jenrich, director of economic development for RichtonPark, said some type of property tax reform is needed.
"My daily struggle is to attract businesses to the community and
keep businesses here. I am tired of them moving to WillCounty," she said.
The proposed law would spread out the tax burden more equitably, Matteson
village Trustee Sam Brown said.
"Clearly, our future is at stake in terms of the economic viability
of the south suburbs. It is almost hanging in the balance if we do not
resolve this issue," Brown said.
South suburban and WillCounty voters, for the most part, held on to their pocketbooks
in Tuesday's balloting on school, municipal and library tax-increase
Only one of the 10 local school districts that sought voter approval
for a tax increase was successful. Nearly 60 percent of Dolton Elementary
District 148's voters approved its request for a $1 increase in the
educational-fund tax rate.
Library issues fared about the same. Of the four on area ballots, only
a proposed 12-cent tax-rate increase in the Green Hills Public Library
District was successful. More than 55 percent of the voters in the district,
which serves Palos
Hills and Hickory Hills, approved the measure.
Meanwhile, no Park District tax measures and only two of six municipalities
that sought additional tax dollars gained approval. Voters in PalosPark granted a sales-tax increase of half of a percentage
point, while voters in Naperville endorsed a plan to increase the monthly surcharge on
telephone bills by 50 cents to improve the 911 emergency communications
Voter rejection of most school-tax proposals likely will have the biggest
and most immediate impact.
Dejected school officials said they are left with little choice but
to trim already thin budgets further. That means scrapping more academic
and extracurricular programs, they said.
In some districts, such as Thornton Township High School District 205,
officials say their budgets already have been sliced to the bone. As
a result, they said, unless the state changes the way it funds Illinois
schools or voters become more willing to crack open their wallets, the
future of public education in their area is in serious jeopardy.
For the second time this year, District 205 voters rejected a 70-cent
tax-rate increase, leaving the district with no choice but to further
cut a budget that already is "an empty shell," said Ken Parchem,
the district's director of business operations.
"We've cut over $21 million from our budget since 1998, including
$8.2 million earlier this year. Now we're looking at trimming $3.5 million
more over the next two years," Parchem said.
After voters rejected the referendum measure on the March primary ballot,
District 205 cut more than 100 teachers, administrators and support
staff members; reduced the number of extracurricular clubs; and merged
some of the interscholastic athletic teams at Thornton, Thornwood and ThornridgeHigh
"There's just about nothing left to cut and still run a school
district," Parchem said. "The state has to look at how it's
funding school districts. Right now the only choice the state gives
us for getting additional funds is to appeal to taxpayers."
In CookCounty, tax-increase proposals were also rejected in Alsip,
Hazelgreen & Oak Lawn Elementary District 126 and Thornton Elementary
Will County districts fared no better with measures failing in Chaney-Monge
District 88, Manhattan District 114, New Lenox District 122, Troy Community
Consolidated District 30-C, Crete-Monee Community Unit District 201-U
and Manteno Community Unit District 5, part of which is also in Kankakee
The widespread rejection makes approval of the tax increase sought by
District 148 that much more remarkable.
"It's like a miracle," said Dorothea Fitzgerald, superintendent
of the 10-school district, which serves some 3,500 students in Dolton
"Credit for its passage is due to the hard work that teachers,
parents, the kids and school board President Ernesto Mickens and his
fellow board members put into getting the word out about how important
approval of the referendum was," Fitzgerald said. "All of
us have been working on winning voter approval since March 17, the day
after the measure was rejected in the March primary."
Fitzgerald said the increase would allow the district to maintain its
current level of programs and services for students. The last time the
district rate was increased was 1987.
Yesterday's election flurry saw voters in the communities of Monmouth
and Roseville decide to put aside their differences, and work together
with a new consolidated school district.
"We're real happy about it," stated Monmouth/Roseville Consolidation
Committee of Ten Chairman Bob Dwyer, "now, our mission is done."
"It's been a long, hard fight...with a lot of hard work,"
said Regional Superintendent Bill Braden of the efforts put forth by
the Committee of Ten. "The two districts will blend just fine,"
he added, "I don't see any obstacles...now the work begins."
The consolidation effort jumped its biggest election day hurdle in Roseville, where the proposition passed by only 103 votes, collecting
a scant 54.44 percent (632 votes out of 1161 cast) voter approval. This
stands in stark contrast to the Monmouth results, which came out 82.3
percent in favor of the consolidation effort, capturing 2,831 of the
3,440 votes cast.
According to Roseville Superintendent Mike Kirby, the Roseville consolidation vote was, "a little narrower than
we thought it might be." Roseville's approval of the consolidation came primarily from
the two Roseville precincts, and received positive votes in LenoxTownship and Point
it should be noted that Berwick, FloydTownship, Swan Creek, and EllisonTownship all voted "No" to consolidation.
The voters' decision to consolidate was described by Monmouth Superintendent
Don Daily as "a real step forward...in each of the communities,"
explaining that the consolidation will allow Monmouth to keep the academic
and extra-curricular options that it has offered in the past, while
also providing those options to Roseville students who did not previously
Also decided in yesterday's election were the members of the new district's
Board of Education. The seven representatives decided upon by the two
communities are as follows (in order of votes received): Lynn R. Shimmin
(3,044 votes); Mary A. Mowen (2,986); Mark Colclasure (2,504); J. Frank
Doyle (2,435); Aaron Jenson (2,384); Jerry L. Kinney (2,368); and Russ
"The people elected...are all excellent citizens," said Braden
of the consolidated district Board, "people spoke their minds on
election day...[and] we have good people elected."
Superintendent Don Daily noted that one of the largest concerns of those
opposing consolidation was the possibility of a predominantly Monmouth-controlled
board in an at-large election process. "That problem has now been
resolved," said Daily, by the fact that the elected board has a
4-3 Roseville majority, despite being elected by predominantly Monmouth
voters. The new board is described by Dwyer as "a great cross-section
of people." Dwyer, a Roseville School Board member for nine years
and candidate for the consolidated board, missed being elected by less
than 400 votes.
The Committee of Ten, its work now complete, will meet one\ last time
on November 8 to complete their budget, issue thanks to those who worked
hard to produce the result received in yesterday's election, and disband
The new school board will have its first meeting on November 23 in the
Monmouth board room. Among their first tasks will be to elect officers,
organize committees, set meeting dates, and decide which Committee of
Ten recommendations to follow, and which to conduct further research
into. This process could be facilitated by the fact that four of the
seven board members served on the recommending body.
According to Dwyer, "change is always hard...communication is going
to be the hardest thing." Dwyer indicated that the new board should
run smoothly when they take over next August, if they, "keep the
lines of communication open."
The new Monmouth/Roseville consolidated district will be in operation
in August, at the beginning of next school year.
Also beginning a new district next August will be the successfully consolidated
Union and Southern
which was passed in yesterday's election. The Southern/Union proposition
passed 3-0 in TompkinsTownship, 3-0 in Point Pleasant, and
64-11 in EllisonTownship.
The hard work is over for the Committee of Ten and the celebrating was
going on last evening after Tuesday evening's vote showed an overwhelming
response in all of HendersonCounty's precincts to consolidate Southern and Union's
Committee of Ten co-chair Karen Jack said, "It was really wonderful.
I am very thrilled and overjoyed, :and really proud of our community."
Jack credited a lot of people behind the committee of ten and volunteers.
"We couldn't have done it by ourselves. I am very excited for our
kids and feel this a wonderful opportunity for them."
The consolidation vote was 2618 to 744 (1770 yes in Union
to 422 no) (848 yes in Southern to 322 no)
Jack says she is now going back to being a mom. They have to meet to
dissolve the committee of ten and then her journey is finished.
Her co-chair Lonnie Brent, however, will only get a breather. Brent
was the top-vote getter over all for the new consolidation school board
of seven with 2186 votes.
In a phone interview Tuesday night, Brent said preparing for consolidation
next fall is going be a big job. "Tonight, I just want to take
time to celebrate. It is one of the biggest nights! This option is going
to be so much better than it would be if we had not passed consolidation.
It is encouraging that both school districts passed it by an overwhelming
About the new consolidation board, Brent said "There is a lot of
very important decisions to be made. I just want to do what's best for
all the children and do what's best from a financial standpoint."
Brent said that Regional Superintendent Bruce Hall will open up their
first meeting July 1st and lead them through their legal requirements.
They will select officers and draw straws for length of seats.
July 1st is the first official date they can meet due to the legal requirements
of a certification of the consolidation count. This only leaves about
two months before school.
Brent said there are many things to learn and be worked out, and as
a first time school board member, he will be seeking answers. With Illinois state law, there are some things you can and can't do.
"I will do whatever is in the legal limit of law to be aggressive
and pro-active," Brent said. "Every single precinct voted
yes, approximately 3 yes votes for every no. Seventy-five percent is
overwhelming. It is good to know your community is supporting this.
I am always open for questions and I appreciate the community's support
in putting our kids education first, even knowing taxes are involved.
The consolidation is the best way to maximize our dollars, and I believe
this is going to be a great thing for our county as well as our kids."
Second highest vote-getter was Bill Allaman of Rozetta with 2082 votes.
In a phone call Tuesday night, Allaman said about the vote, "I
am very pleased. There is a lot of work ahead of us, but I'm pleased
that it passed and by an overwhelming majority. The Committee Of Ten
did a wonderful job."
Allaman said he was also glad the board is evenly divided, four from
Southern and three from Union.
Allaman said it was pretty exciting at the courthouse. "Every precinct
passed it, and by an overwhelming majority.
I was very pleased with the turn out. Most importantly, it passed, and
I think that is the most important thing for our kids.
It is going to provide a solid curriculum and education for our kids
for years to come."
As a board, Allaman agreed with Brent that they had their work cut out
for them in the upcoming months.
Close behind Allaman was Kathy Bavery, third highest vote getter with
2016 votes. Brent, Allaman and Bavery were the top three in all 7 precincts.
"I'm thrilled that it passed," Kathy said. She heard that
she had been voted on the board but wasn't sure it was official.
"I hope we can be successful and do what's best for all the students
in the county."
Community Unit School District 300's legal counsel is seeking help from
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan about how to handle an ethics
complaint filed against Board of Education member Mary Warren.
The case may be the first test of a new state ethics law in terms of
claims against a school board member, officials said.
District 300's Board of Education appointed a three-member panel last
week to investigate whether Warren violated a district ethics policy by working with a
political action committee on a referendum-related phone survey last
summer, officials said.
Board members previously had decided to review a complaint filed against
Warren themselves, as permitted under state law, but word that Warren
planned to call three fellow board members as witnesses at her hearing
left the board without a quorum to vote on the matter.
Warren did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday afternoon
about why she plans to call board President John Court, Secretary Anne Miller and member Mary Fioretti to testify.
"I have no idea specifically about what she plans to ask,"
The investigation started after Warren used funds from the local political action committee
Schools Now last summer to hire a public relations company that polled
500 residents about the school district and a hypothetical tax increase.
Warren worked for Schools Now before she was elected to the
school board in 2001.
On Sept. 7, a District 300 resident filed a complaint with the School
Board, citing possible violations of an ethics policy the board adopted
in June to comply with a new state law. The complainant also objected
to Warren using district financial staff to craft the survey.
The State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, enacted by the General
Assembly in November 2003, prohibits government officers -- including
school board members -- from participating in certain public opinion
In addition to the usual school portraits, parents of Palatine's Pleasant
HillElementary School students also received free photo ID cards this year.
The cards came as part of a national program started this fall in collaboration
with Lifetouch Studios, which handles school portraits for many District
15 schools and the NationalCenter for Missing and Exploited Children.
"Every parent gets a set of two wallet-sized cards with a color
photo of the child," said Jennifer Draznik, PTA chairwoman of the
yearbook committee at Pleasant
The card comes with instructions on what to do if a child is abducted
"Hopefully, it won't happen to anyone in our school, but just in
case, you've got it," Draznik said.
If a child is missing, parents or police may call (800) THE-LOST to
get a digital photo that can be distributed nationwide over the America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, or AMBER, alert
"The last thing a parent needs when a child is missing is to try
and find a recent photograph," Draznik said. "This really
speeds up the system."
Lifetouch offers its SmileSafe Kids program to schools that already
work with them for school portraits. The company handles about half
of the national school portrait business and company officials expect
30,000 schools and 20 million students to participate in the program,
according to Mike Bradbury, a manager for Lifetouch's Des Plaines
"One of the things we've heard over the years is that security
is an increasing concern," said Joe Sell, a senior director at
Lifetouch. "We thought we really needed a better use of our resources
to utilize images that we take."
Hill are distributing the cards during parent/teacher conferences
"This is a great fear that many parents have," said Lisa Sammons,
a PTA member. "This gives you all the resources you have for the
first few important hours a child goes missing."
High school teachers and coaches in LakeVilla and Antioch will have a new system to pay for school-related items
within the next month.
Along with the system comes a multipage agreement that will cost those
teachers and coaches their jobs if the cards are abused.
The Antioch-Lake Villa High School District 117 school board voted unanimously
to start using procurement cards - better known as P-cards - at its
P-cards will replace the old method of using purchase orders. They will
be used to purchase everything from a single stapler to much larger
items like athletic uniforms at AntiochCommunityHigh
To use a P-card, teachers and coaches must sign agreements promising
not to misuse them. If a teacher doesn't sign the agreement or uses
the cards on inappropriate purchases, he or she will be fired, said
Superintendent Jay Sabatino.
P-cards operate much like a credit card - only with much stricter controls.
School officials limit who uses a P-card, the amount charged and even
dates when the P-card is valid.
Currently, the allocation of these funds is much more susceptible to
abuse. For example, if a tennis coach wanted to take his team out for
breakfast after a meet, the coach would estimate what the meal would
cost and then settle up with the school district after the meal took
place. The P-card system will eliminate the extra time and paperwork
this system caused, Sabatino said.
The P-card system was created and is managed by the Illinois Association
of School Business Officials. In total, 19 school districts in the state
are using the P-cards, including Beach Park Elementary District 3 and
North Shore Elementary District 112, according to the group's Web site.
The cards have no annual fees if the balance is paid on time.
The cards will be distributed to teachers and coaches at the two high
schools within the next month. How many cards each school will receive
is not known at this time, Sabatino said.
District 117's newly approved P-card system will most likely prevent
spending problems that recently surfaced nearby in Gurnee.
Questionable student activity fund spending became an issue at WarrenTownshipHigh
in September. Canceled checks and other District 121 documents show
the student activity fund was used to pay for silk neckties, picture
framing, coaches' gifts, golf outing fees, theater tickets and other
items from 1999 to 2003. An independent investigator and auditing firm
have been hired to examine whether student activity fund misspending
occurred in District 121.
Sabatino said Thursday's decision to use P-cards in District 117 was
not in response to WarrenTownship's controversy. However, Sabatino did say his and other
school districts are paying attention to Warren's situation and finding ways to avoid similar problems.
That's what he calls visiting schools and spending time with children.
On Thursday, PershingSchool held its annual Family Reading Night, and McPherson
read a book about Clifford the Big Red Dog to the preschoolers and their
Kaitlin Dickey, 4, said he was a good reader. "I liked it,"
she said, while her twin brother, Connor, nodded in agreement.
Mom Tamara Dickey said she tries to attend as many school events as
"It's important just to be here," she said. "That way
you can see what's going on. And reading is so important. We read every
Parents are usually involved with their children's school when the kids
are little, McPherson said, but sometimes back off by middle school,
when children start to pull away and don't want Mom and Dad around school
as much. Yet, he said, it's more important than ever for parents to
stay involved all the way through school.
Children and their parents enjoyed a snack and made leaf collages, had
their family picture taken and listened to celebrity readers including
McPherson, Assistant City Manager Billy Tyus, state Rep. Bill Mitchell
and Charles Shonkwiler, regional superintendent of schools. Each child
also received a free book, courtesy of Reading is Fundamental.
McPherson said the district is blessed to have so much community support,
which pays for things such as those books and various other programs
the district's budget can't quite cover.
Pershing used to hold its Family Reading Night on the same night the
elementary schools held theirs but decided this year to hold it a couple
of weeks early so parents with children in Pershing's preschool program
and elementary school wouldn't have to choose, said Ann Chambliss, who
has taught at Pershing for several years.
"This is where they get the foundation for everything they do,"
Chambliss said. "Hopefully, this sends a message that reading is
important. (The children) may not really know who (the celebrity readers)
are, but their parents do, and the fact that they were willing to come
out and read to them also emphasizes how important it is."
By ISAAC GUERRERO, Rockford Register Star, 11/5/04
MACHESNEY PARK -- The results offered no clear mandate. Provisional
surveys are still being counted. At stake: What's the dress code going
to be for students in HarlemSchool
Khakis for everyone? A collar on every neck?
Some say the current dress-code policy flip-flops and can't be relied
upon. Others say it's the right time for the right wardrobe at the right
place -- school.
Parents at five of the district's 11 schools said they favor some type
of coordinated dress code. Parents at four other schools don't favor
any changes. Survey results from two schools are pending.
The School Board Policy Committee meets Nov. 15 to discuss the results
and decide the next step.
In the Rockford public schools this fall, two elementary schools and
one middle school introduced uniform policies. Last year, HononegahHigh
in Rockton adopted a code that calls for sleeves on all clothing and
bans midriff exposure, cleavage, visible underwear, low-rise pants or
shorts, and other revealing clothing.
Parents at Rockford public schools where uniforms are the rule say uniforms
give students discipline and structure, while eliminating peer pressure
to wear risque or expensive clothes.
Harlem is studying the issue "to eliminate everyday dress-code
issues," said Nancy Feinstein, an assistant principal at HarlemMiddle School. Feinstein said she typically reprimands two or three
students a day for dress-code violations.
"Of course, there are other days when I don't see any violations,"
Feinstein said. "The biggest problem that I see is the very short
skirts and the low-rise jeans. Combine the low-rise jeans with a short
top and you see too much skin in the middle. With the short skirts,
you see too much leg."
Open to interpretation
Harlem's districtwide dress-code policy is open to interpretation:
Students' dress and grooming "must not disrupt the educational
process, interfere with the maintenance of a positive teaching/learning
climate, or compromise reasonable standards of health, safety and decency."
The problem comes when schools enforce individual policies.
students' clothing "must cover the student from the entirety of
the shoulders to midthigh with no low or revealing necklines."
LovesPark Elementary keeps the same rule, but has additional limitations
on attire during warm weather. Students may wear shorts of "reasonable"
length; girls cannot wear halter tops or open-knit shirts and blouses
during the warmer months.
"I'm for anything to clean up the current dress code," said
Harlem School Board member Debbie Kerr at a recent Policy Committee
meeting. "I don't think the current one is adequate."
Parents who were surveyed were asked to rank support for a variety of
polo or collared shirts, skirts below the knees, and jeans or khaki
For example, 71 of 133 parents surveyed at Olson Park Elementary said
they favor polo shirts as part of a coordinated dress code, provided
the district gives parents a choice of three colors. Fifty-four parents
said they didn't support changing the school's dress code.
Parents who support a coordinated dress code said they believe the policy
would reduce teasing and cliques. Those who dislike the idea said uniforms
would be too expensive and that administrators should simply enforce
existing dress-code rules.
Ashlee Griffin, an eighth-grader at HarlemMiddle School, doesn't favor a coordinated dress code.
"Sometimes, I like to dress up and wear a skirt, and other days
I'll wear jeans and a sweat shirt," Ashlee said. "If you have
a new dress code, people will find ways to not abide by it. One group
of people could still wear the same brand of clothes and you'd still
know who is popular and who the rich kids are."
"I think the district should move to uniforms," said Harlem
parent Mellodi Gillette. "I have two children in the School District, and I am scared to death about my sixth-grader going
to junior high knowing what kids wear to school these days."
"It's in fashion today to wear the really tight clothing,"
she said. "You have girls dressing like they are 19 or 20 years
old when they're really only 11 or 12."
Harlem School Board President Sandi Johnson doesn't favor changing the
dress-code policy. "If we're going to require kids to wear polo
shirts and khakis, you can still buy polos that show your midriff and
khaki pants that sag," Johnson said. "I'd like to see administrators
and teachers do more to enforce the rules we have."
Support for dress codes
Uniforms eliminate the frustration of picking out what to wear every
morning, said Dee Sanders, whose daughter Deessiah attends second grade
at LewisLemonGlobalStudiesAcademy in Rockford. The magnet school has required uniforms since it opened
"As a single mom, having uniforms helps out with expenses,"
Sanders said. "You know what clothes you have to buy and you know
what your child has to wear every day. I think it also takes the stress
off of kids who are less fortunate. They can't wear the name-brand clothes.
When everyone is dressed alike, you can't tease anyone."
Doreen Swinehart agrees. Her son Seth attends sixth grade at LincolnMiddle
where uniforms were introduced this year.
"I think uniforms work well because students know that everyone
else is going to dress the same," Swinehart said. "There's
no 'I'm wearing this shirt, so I'm better than you.' It also prepares
students to think about dressing appropriately later in life."
Only sixth-graders at Lincoln are required to wear uniforms this year. The dress-code
rules will be phased in for seventh- and eighth-graders during the next
Dress code referrals are down slightly this year, said Lincoln Assistant
Principal Jaime Cadengo.
"There are still problems, but now that the sixth-graders are being
conditioned to wear the uniforms every day, the problems are fewer,"
SOUTH BELOIT -- Jelly bracelets, an innocent '80s fashion craze, have
made an unwholesome comeback that's forced school administrators in
South Beloit to ban the colorful rubber jewelry.
Jelly bracelets are still sold in a rainbow of colors. Only these days,
they have a new name: sex bracelets.
According to an Oct. 27 blurb in Time magazine, jelly bracelets have
spawned a new game called "Snap" at schools across the country.
If a boy snaps a certain color bracelet off a girl's wrist, she is supposed
to owe him a sex act that corresponds to the color.
Buzz about the trend has triggered jelly bracelet bans at middle schools
in Ohio and Florida. Administrators at SouthBeloitJunior
banned them in October, said dean of students Tim Hayunga. Administrators
Hononegah and Rockford schools haven't reported problems with the bracelets.
"We wanted to take action for the safety of our students before
any problems were reported," said Hayunga, who learned about the
fashion trend at an education convention in Baltimore two months ago.
The elementary school and the junior high share the same address and
have a combined population of 280 students in fifth through eighth grades.
Parents were alerted to the sexual connotations behind the bracelets
in a school newsletter last month. Before the ban, Hayunga said, he
noticed fewer than 20 students at the two schools sporting the bracelets.
"I think in many cases our students didn't know the idea behind
them," Hayunga said. "But for the safety of students ... we
wanted to let parents know the meaning behind the bracelets."
[Re: ''Many students here skip AP exams,'' metro story, Oct. 31:] I
am a junior at ThornwoodHigh
in South Holland. This May, I might be one of the many Illinois students not taking the AP [advanced placement] exam.
The reason: price.
I am enrolled in two AP classes, so to take both tests would cost me
$160. I simply feel that the price is too high for a test that I may
A suggestion: Make the test free for those who have worked hard for
it. Passing the AP class itself should be your ticket into taking the
When the school bell rings, the children scramble to get into their
seats. But in some classrooms, there are seats that stay empty day after
The students are not ill. They are, for their own reasons, sick of school.
As Sara Burnett's analysis of truancy in our Sunday editions reveals,
nearly 3,700 students in the Northwest and West suburbs missed at least
10 percent - or 18 days - of school without an excuse in the 2002-2003
While that still means the majority of students are not skipping school,
the truancy numbers are nonetheless disconcerting. Particularly given
that 736 of those students are in elementary school.
Each day a truant takes off from school is another day he or she falls
behind in the learning curve. When you are missing up to 10 percent
of the school year, it is tough to catch up. Some don't. And they wind
up dropping out of school, with little hope of finding a job but a pretty
good chance of finding a spot in a penal institution.
It is a problem that is found in school districts with affluent towns
and in those where there are not healthy incomes. But one official tracking
truancy notes that it is "spiraling out of control" in some
This is foremost a matter of parental accountability. Parents who do
not make sure their children are attending school, or who are cultivating
an environment in the home where missing school is inconsequential,
are setting their children up for failure.
These may be parents who were truants or dropouts themselves. Or who
are highly educated, but give in to the kids' pleas to stay home until
those one or two days add up to many days.
Or parents who are incapable of even caring, because they are addicted
to drugs or alcohol. Indeed, as Burnett noted, these parents might be
sleeping all day, not even realizing their children aren't attending
Still other parents may be keeping their children home to be baby sitters,
or may not even know when and how to register their children for school.
The solution to the problem lies in the home, but that doesn't mean
schools don't have a duty to monitor attendance and get parents of truant
students to meet their responsibilities. Schools do this through calling
parents when students aren't in school. And when they detect a problem,
they follow up through both outreach and discipline for multiple offenders.
This is difficult for schools, however, when parents are uncooperative.
Or when they do have an effective outreach program to work with families
who truly care about their children diligently attending school, but
find their efforts diluted by lack of funds. State funding for truancy
prevention has been cut by more than 20 percent in the last four years.
If schools are expected to enforce the truancy laws - in the best interest
of children - they should have the tools to do so.
But parents should be setting the example, and being accountable and
responsible in the education of their children.
I have heard liberal voters blame uneducated religious zealot hicks
for the re-election of George W. Bush. And I have heard conservative
voters bemoan the stampede by the uneducated urban poor to the ticket
of John Kerry.
In both harangues what rings true is the word uneducated.
Until every vote is informed in the light of the the best education
America can provide its citizens, come election day or the day after,
we will elect what we deserve.
Until we are ready to foot the cost of education, we should shut up
already when we are tempted to complain about the intellect of the plebian
electorate. We would do better to look at our own motives for refusing
election after election to fund education.
In LakeCounty on Tuesday, eight of 11 school referendums were voted
down. Most had already made two or three or four attempts. According
to Students First Illinois, more than 82 percent of school tax referendums
failed across the state.
In Gurnee, where a request for a tax rate increase to the education
fund was defeated for the fifth consecutive time, referendum committee
chairperson Lavonna Garner mused about the loss.
"We knew we had to work a lot harder than the opposition, which
threw up some signs and wrote some letters," Garner said. "Passing
a tax increase is an uphill battle. But there's something to be said
for sacrifice. It's not a word people want to hear. Just look at the
debt in our nation. People want what they want. They get comfortable.
It's very, very frustrating when you know a lot of residents who could
afford the request but make the choice not to.
"That is a sad comment on our community and in our nation."
What is most troublesome about the lack of funding for education, is
that it hits hardest children who are most in need. Poor kids, urban
kids, Latino and black kids are routinely shortchanged by states that
fail to provide education dollars to make up for property tax shortfalls.
According to The Funding Gap 2004, a report of the Education Trust,
the highest poverty school districts in 36 states receive less money
than the lowest-poverty districts after the extra cost of educating
low-income students is figured in.
Illinois and New York both states carried by Kerry have
the largest funding gaps in the nation for low income students at more
than $2,000 per student, the report stated.
In Illinois, the cost-adjusted funding gap for a low-income classroom
amounts to a difference of $35,750 per year and for a low-income school,
$986,000 per year.
"Consider the daily struggle for progress that occurs in many of
our poorest schools," the report states. "What could those
schools do with another $1 million per year resources that their
more wealthy peers already enjoy?"
The Education Trust also points to a key reason why wealth-based disparities
continue to widen: states, like Illinois, that shift more burden onto local property taxes, are
in effect creating private school systems because wealthier districts
have a much larger property tax base to draw from.
The federal government is also taken to task by the Trust for never
providing more than 10 percent of elementary and secondary school funding.
The Trust urges the President and Congress to fund the Title I program
at the maximum levels authorized by No Child Left Behind.
The correlation between a growing high-poverty, special needs enrollment,
low tax base and increasing difficulty in passing referendums is obvious.
Social shortsightedness is also to blame.
"It's not underfunded schools that hurt property values,"
one longstanding opponent of school tax increases told me recently.
"It's the demographic in a community."
"Demographic," of course, is the code word affluent suburbanites
use for poor, underachieving and special needs.
Such kids are a drain on the resources we and our government are willing
to pay for. One school official told me only half-jokingly that his
district would ship them all to a nearby Catholic school or more affluent
district, if it could.
But it's in our state and our nation's best interest to educate the
"demographic" that is going to elect future presidents, legislators
It would be better to lament, like the late U.S. Senator Morris Udall,
"The voters have spoken the bastards!" than "The
voters have spoken the idiots!"
In the first year of the Bush administration, Democrats and Republicans
worked together to reshape federal education policy.
They were alarmed by persistent studies showing that although the best
in the United States clearly match or exceed the best in other countries,
American students as a group do poorly in international comparisons.
Large numbers of children - especially among the poor and minority groups
- fail to reach basic academic proficiency for their age group and grade
level. Fully half of black and Hispanic students don't graduate from
The resulting 2002 law, called No Child Left Behind, was a Bush initiative
modeled on education policy in Texas before and during his governorship. The law mandates
annual state testing, defines teacher preparation, even specifies acceptable
reading curriculums. It has changed the day-to-day lives of teachers
and students, labeled thousands of schools "in need of improvement,"
and been a flash point for resistance that has crossed party and ideological
It has become the shape that frames all discussion of pre-college education
in the current debate.
In contrast to 2000, education has received scant attention in this
year's campaign, although President Bush and John Kerry both have detailed
proposals on everything from college loans to Head Start.
Starting in the mid-1990s, most states began adopting measures to hold
schools accountable for results. Texas
went further than most - relentlessly testing students and tracking
the results by racial and ethnic subgroups, then intervening in schools
that didn't meet their goals.
Duplicating this system on a national scale was an unprecedented and
controversial use of federal muscle in an area that is fiercely guarded
as a local and state prerogative.
Washington has historically been a bystander in education policy;
its first foray was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965,
a Great Society initiative that targeted money to disadvantaged students
and school districts. The Department of Education was not created until
While federal education efforts have consistently grown and expanded
since 1965, Washington contributes less than 10 percent of all education costs.
Local property taxes pay for the biggest portion, followed by state
subsidies, which explains the wide disparities in spending among districts.
Although No Child Left Behind is just the latest reauthorization of
1965's education act, it is also something more. For the first time,
it set the ambitious goal that all students, regardless of race, disability
or disadvantage, reach academic proficiency by 2014, requiring them
to meet annual improvement targets for all subgroups.
And it puts in place an escalating series of interventions for schools
that fall short. They can be required to give up some federal money,
convert to charters, allow students to transfer out, rebuild faculty,
or close down entirely.
As Congress worked on the legislation, opponents and supporters crossed
ideological and party lines. Advocates for disadvantaged children found
themselves aligned with conservatives pushing school choice for parents
and wholesale restructuring of failing schools; conservatives who oppose
a strong federal intervention on principle lined up on the same side
as teacher unions that defend the educational status quo.
John Kerry, along with most Democrats, voted for the law, but now he
says the Bush administration has reneged on promises to fund it adequately
and has neglected some of the law's most important pieces, especially
the one requiring a "highly qualified" teacher in every classroom
But opposition still crosses party lines. Many well-funded Republican
bastions, where local autonomy is valued, have complained that the federally
imposed regulations are so stringent that nearly every school in the
country, including theirs, will at some point miss the academic-improvement
goals for at least one subgroup and find itself on a list for "needing
improvement." Parents are confused because, under No Child Left
Behind's rules, a school can be commended as excellent by the state
even as it fails to meet its federal goals.
Partly in response, the Department of Education has made some of the
standards for counting the scores of disabled and limited-English students
Implementation of the law nationwide has spawned dueling research over
whether it is working or not. One study by the Education Trust - it
was among the student-advocacy groups that supported the law - indicated
that achievement gaps among white students and their black and Hispanic
counterparts were narrowing in most states.
But there are still questions over just what the data mean. A study
by the Government Accountability Office found wide variations in the
tests and standards used by states to determine whether a school was
meeting goals. Another study showed that dropout rates have increased
even as test scores have gone up, which also became an issue casting
doubt on Texas' success rate. An Inquirer analysis showed Thursday
that the apparent increase in Pennsylvania schools' meeting achievement
goals in 2004 was mainly due to modification of the standards, not to
improved student performance.
By far the biggest debate has centered on whether No Child Left Behind
is adequately funded. Democrats and Kerry have taken up the cry that
it is not. Republicans, led by Education Secretary Rod Paige, argue
that although federal aid has increased substantially, more money is
not the key to a better education. He has also called the law an unqualified
success, even though it has been in place only two years and education
experts consistently state that the proper span for assessing major
reforms is a decade or longer.
AUSTIN - State Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley on Friday
withdrew, at least for now, a policy that would have made it easier
for school districts to put more students into classrooms.
Neeley's action came four days after two teachers groups filed a lawsuit
against her, contending she didn't have the authority to carry out two
new options for circumventing a state law that puts a 22-student limit
on classes from kindergarten through fourth grade.
Neeley announced she was rescinding an Oct. 5 "guidance letter"
that outlined the new options. Instead, she said, she will draft a formal
rules change, a more formal process that will allow interested parties
to file written comments on the proposed changes. She said the new process
will take about three months.
"While I never intended to weaken the 22-1 class size limit law
in any way, my Oct. 5 guidance letter to districts has raised fears
that class sizes will grow," Neeley said.
"By following the rule-making process, we can receive written testimony
from the public about ways to continue to enforce this important law,
while streamlining the paperwork involved in seeking an exception to
the class size limit," she added.
She said no district had applied for an exception to the class size
limits under her Oct. 5 guidelines.
Some experts have credited the class size limits, imposed in 1984, for
subsequent improvements in Texas'
Districts have been allowed to seek waivers to increase class sizes
if they have unanticipated student growth or have a shortage of teachers
or classroom space.
The waivers are good for one semester, and parents have to be notified
if their children are in classrooms that exceed the limit.
The policy that Neeley has withdrawn would have let school trustees
authorize superintendents to seek waivers without going before the board
to get public input on the decisions.
It also would have let districts with high enrollment turnover write
a letter in lieu of completing a waiver application for some classes.
The Texas Federation of Teachers and the Texas State Teachers Association
sued Neeley on Monday, arguing that the earlier proposal had exceeded
Donna New Haschke, the association's president, said she's hopeful Neeley
will drop the issue.
"We believe the tide of public opinion is on our side," Haschke
said. "We cannot relax the standards on class size."
Federation president John Cole said Monday that Neeley was "taking
away the opportunity for parents to go before their local school board
and discuss or protest any move to cram more kids into classrooms."
Neeley said she changed her mind after a competing teachers group, the
Texas Classroom Teachers Association, encouraged her to follow the more
formal rule-making process.
"They approached their concerns in a collaborative, non-combative
manner with a clear desire to resolve the problem with a win-win outcome,"
Voters last night soundly rejected measures that would have bailed out
Washington's hard-pressed public education system and opened the
door to charter schools.
Sales tax-raising Initiative 884 and charter school-creating Referendum
55 suffered lopsided defeats statewide, according to late returns.
Supporters and opponents of the education measures agreed that the election
results put the issue of under-funded schools and colleges squarely
on the doorstep of the Legislature.
"We built a coalition that was pretty unusual, and we served up
a solution that it looks like the voters didn't buy," said Lisa
Macfarlane, spokeswoman for the League of Education Voters. "I
hope the Legislature and governor have a better idea."
Jamie Daniels of the League of Freedom Voters, the group opposing I-884,
echoed Macfarlane's plea.
"I truly hope the Leg will prioritize education. They need to start
working on those reforms now."
Critics said the initiative, which would have raised an estimated $1
billion a year, lacked accountability. Opponents also argued that raising
the statewide sales tax from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent would have hurt
"We have said from the beginning that I-884 was about the economy
and government accountability," Daniels said. "We didn't look
at this as a referendum on prioritizing education."
The defeat of the charter school referendum came as no surprise to Charles
Hasse, president of the Washington Education Association. The teachers
union spearheaded the effort to defeat the measure.
"We're really ready to move beyond this issue and work with people
who have different views on charter schools," Hasse said.
Jim Spady, a longtime charter advocate, said that even though R-55 failed,
the state's high school dropout rate of more than 30 percent can't be
"We proposed charter public schools as a way to address this crisis,"
he said. "If the voters decide that they don't want to address
this problem with charter schools right now, the fact is the problem
still needs to be addressed."
Most educators backed I-884, which would have dealt out big bucks to
every level of public education -- from preschools and K-12 to colleges
and universities. Some of those voters, however, strongly opposed R-55
-- concerned that charter schools would drain regular school budgets.
The measure aimed to reverse a 10-year slump in education spending and
would have expanded preschools to serve an estimated 10,000 more low-income
children. In K-12 schools, class sizes would have been reduced and teacher
pay and training would have been increased. In the higher education
system, 25,000 full-time enrollments in community colleges and universities
would have been funded at a higher rate.
The initiative also would have provided college scholarships to more
students and boosted state spending on research at the University of Washington and WashingtonStateUniversity by up to $100 million a year.
Only 7,000 of Washington's 30,000 neediest preschool-age children get a jump
on education. The K-12 system is struggling with the some of the highest
student-teacher ratios in the country. More than 100,000 students have
entered the system since 1993.
The Higher Education Coordinating Board estimates the state will have
to add more than 33,000 full-time positions in colleges by 2010 to keep
the system struggling at status quo.
Supporters said charter schools also would have aided the state's struggling
K-12 system by providing more choices for parents and fostering innovation.
The measure stemmed from action by state legislators and Gov. Gary Locke
last spring. It passed the Legislature but was suspended by a petition
drive, spearheaded by the state teachers union. The critics had collected
enough signatures to force the referendum vote.
R-55 would have made Washington the 41st state in the nation to allow charter schools.
Those schools would be publicly financed and operate under a charter,
or contract, with local or state education officials.
The charter identifies a school's mission and educational plan. Charter
schools typically operate free of many regulations that apply to conventional
public schools, setting their own curriculums and schedules, for example,
or hiring with a freer hand.
The Washington law would have authorized up to 45 new charter schools
in the next six years. Only a non-profit, non-sectarian group could
have received a charter. The law was designed to favor applicants seeking
to target underachieving students.
They are a favorite cause of free-market advocates, and the campaign
to approve the referendum attracted million-dollar contributions from
Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and Wal-Mart heir John Walton.
Registered voters last week expressed concerns about the cost of both
education measures. Would R-55 really take money away from regular schools?
Would I-884 hurt the state's tender economy?
"We're going to keep working at this," Macfarlane said. "We
were not just interested in a campaign. We were interested in building
a movement to built the best public schools in the nation. We're not
President Bush, who touted campaign plans to build on his bipartisan
No Child Left Behind Act with new measures aimed at the secondary school
level, has won a second term in the White House in a hard-fought race
with Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. The Democratic challenger called
Mr. Bush to concede late on the morning of Nov. 3.
The president will likely get a boost for his education agenda with
the increase in Republicans slim majorities in both the Senate
and the House of Representatives. Mr. Bush has secured a majority of
the popular vote, and amassed what appeared to be a big enough lead
in the electorally crucial state of Ohio to declare victory.
The Republican nominee put noticeably less emphasis on education during
his second campaign for the White House than he did four years ago,
but he nonetheless spelled out a range of new ideas and programs. Mr.
Bush called for requiring more testing at the high school level, providing
new supports for struggling middle and high school readers, and giving
pay hikes to teachers who improve student achievement, among other ideas.
President Bush also frequently talked on the campaign trail about the
nearly 3-year-old No Child Left Behind Act, the signature education
accomplishment of his first four years. The Bush administration has
vowed to stay the course with the federal law, which won overwhelming
support from Democrats and Republicans in Congress but has come under
increasing attack since the president signed the measure in January
Its as if a tree has been planted that really needs at least
another four years of nurture to be secure, Sandy Kress, who previously
was Mr. Bushs education adviser and has informally advised the
campaign, said on the morning of Nov. 3. What No Child Left Behind
represents will be continued, will live, will be nurtured, and will
be given a chance to make a real difference in the way education works.
Mr. Kress added: Thats not to say that, administratively
and legislatively, there wont be opportunities to improve and
strengthen and make things work smarter and better. The administration
has so far resisted calls to amend the federal statute, the latest version
of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The law will officially
come up for reauthorization in three years. Jack Jennings, the director
of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington think tank, and a former top aide to House Democrats
on education, said he believes a second term for President Bush signals
few changes to the No Child Left Behind Act.
The next four years are Bush holding tight to No Child Left Behind,
Mr. Jennings said. He called the presidents campaign proposals,
which included high school initiatives as well as teacher incentives,
campaign rhetoric just to say he had a program. Mr. Jennings
said he believed few, if any, would actually be enacted.
Those things were just props for the campaign, Mr. Jennings
Mr. Jennings predicted that there would be little additional funding
for the No Child Left Behind Act in a second Bush term, something the
Democrats said during the campaign was sorely lacking.
Reg Weaver, the president of the 2.7-million-member National Education
Association, which endorsed Sen. Kerry in the campaign, said he believes
the No Child Left Behind law will see changes during the next Congress.
I think the question is no longer shall the law be changed,
said Mr. Weaver, whose union has been sharply critical of the federal
law as written. I think the question is how it should be changed.
I do believe there are Republicans and Democrats who see that
there needs to be some changes.
Kathleen Porter-Magee, the associate research director at the Washington-based
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, said she thought it would be more difficult
for the president to push through some of his new ideas for high schools
and teacher quality during a second term.
For example, Mr. Bush has said he wants to require more testing for
high school students. He has proposed to phase in mandatory testing
each year in grades 9-11. Currently, states must test students in reading
and mathematics only once in high school under the No Child Left Behind
Act. The president has also called for financial rewards for teachers
who improve student achievement.
Such ideas would be unlikely to garner the type of bipartisan support
Mr. Bush rallied for passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, said Ms.
There is more resistance than there was then, she said.
There was broad bipartisan support, but now when it comes to education,
things are a little more polarized.
Mr. Weaver of the NEA said his union would oppose more testing.
The current testing focus of the No Child Left Behind Act has caused
too many schools to be labeled as failing, he said, and he argued
that still more testing is wrongheaded. It gives the impression
that testing is the only mechanism that can be used to determine whether
or not a school can be successful, Mr. Weaver said.
The Race for Congress
Some analysts also expect President Bush and Republicans in Congress
to press hard to expand broader federal support for private school vouchers
over the next four years. The first-ever federal voucher program, a
pilot plan in the District of Columbia, was enacted earlier this year.
Republicans retained and built on majorities in both the House and the
Senate. A handful of Senate and House races were too close to call on
Nov. 3, but Republicans have added at least three seats to their majority
in the Senate and at least four in the House.
The biggest upset was that of Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senates Democratic leader, who appears to
have been defeated by former Rep. John Thune, a Republican.
In early results on Election Day, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a Republican and the chairman of the Senate Appropriations
subcommittee that oversees federal education spending, appeared to be
at risk of losing to his Democratic challenger, Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel.
But Mr. Specter pulled out a victory.
Two veteran state schools chiefs who sought election to the Senate met
with defeat. In South
Democratic state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum lost to
Republican Rep. Jim DeMint who sailed to victory with 54 percent of
the vote. In Florida, the race was closer. But on Nov. 3, Betty Castor, a
Democrat and a former state education commissioner, conceded to Republican
Mel Martinez, a former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development under President
At least one member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee
wont be returning to Capitol Hill next year. In Georgia, Republican Rep. Max Burns appeared to have lost to
his Democratic challenger, John Barrow, an AthensCounty commissioner.
Incumbents swept races for state schools chief in four statesIndiana,
Montana, North Dakota, and Washington statewhile an open seat
in North Carolina remained too close to call the morning after the Nov.
2 elections. In state school board elections, incumbents also fared
well in most of the 12 states where they were held.
Terry Bergeson won re-election to a third term as Washington states
schools chief by a substantial margin in what had been expected to be
a close race with Judith Billings, a former state superintendent. It
was the second time the two had faced each other for the nonpartisan
Ms. Bergeson, a former president of the Washington Education Association,
the states largest teachers union, won the election despite
failing to win the endorsement of the union, which criticized her for
supporting charter schools. Ms. Billings is against charter schools.
The candidates also disagreed on plans to use the 10th grade Washington
Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL, as a graduation requirement,
beginning in 2008. Ms. Bergeson helped establish the requirement, while
Ms. Billings wanted to remove the test as a graduation requirement and
use broader measures of student progress.
Meanwhile, North Dakotas Wayne G. Sanstead won a sixth term as
state schools chief, receiving about 62 percent of the vote with most
precincts reporting, to defeat high school principal Keith Jacobson
in the nonpartisan contest.
Indianas Republican incumbent, Suellen Reed, succeeded
in gaining a fourth term as state superintendent. Ms. Reeds Democratic
challenger, Susan Williams, had vowed that if elected, she would immediately
resign to allow the governor to make an appointment to the post. Ms.
Reed also supports making the schools chiefs post an appointed
position, but only after the Indiana legislature decides to change the law.
The main thing [these results] tell us is that were heading
in the right direction, and that continuity is important to getting
Indiana [public schools] where they need to be, Ms. Reed said
in an interview.
In Montana, Democrat Linda McCulloch was re-elected to a second
term as schools chief over Republican Bob Anderson, the superintendent
of the 340-student FortBenton public schools.
Meanwhile, the superintendents race in North Carolina was in a dead heat, with the candidates coming within
50 votes of each other with 89 percent of the precincts reporting. Democrat
June Atkinson, a former state education official, and Republican Bill
Fletcher, a businessman and longtime school board member in WakeCounty, each had 50 percent of the vote for the seat vacated
by Mike Ward, who resigned in August. North Carolinas state chief
has had reduced statutory authority since the early 1990s, when the
state board handed most of the oversight of the department of public
instruction to the deputy superintendent, who is hired by the state
In state board races, a Democrat who favors the inclusion of the theory
of evolution in Kansas science standards and textbooks won re-election
to the only contested position on the 10-member Kansas board of education. Bill Wagnon, a history professor
at WashburnUniversity in Topeka, received 51 percent of the vote for a third four-year
The candidates views on science were an issue in the Kansas race. The topic has caused considerable state and national
debate since the state boards vote in 1999 to remove references
to the theory of evolution from the state-approved science curriculum.
In 2001, the board reversed that decision. But Mr. Wagnons challenger,
Robert L. Meissner, a Republican, has said he would consider adding
requirements for students to learn alternative science theories such
as intelligent design, according to news reports.
In Utah, three of the four incumbentsTeresa L. Theurer, John C.
Pingree, and Janet A. Cannonon the 15-member state board who were
up for re-election kept their seats. Mike Anderson, the fourth incumbent
running, lost his seat. Mr. Anderson was forced to run as a write-in
candidate after the states selection committee had not recommended
him for the ballot for the nonpartisan board.
State board elections were also held in Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan,
Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. Preliminary
election results showed that incumbents hung on to their seats in some
of those states.
Marc Fisher, a Washington Post Metro columnist, recently used the story
of an excellent elementary school in FairfaxCounty to trash, once again, the No Child Left Behind Act ["Leaving
No Child Behind at Bailey's," Metro, Oct. 23].
I was delighted to read the column because it not only was well written
but also gave me a chance to expose, once again, Fisher's ill-considered
bias against giving kids standardized tests and taking the results have
some consequences for the school.
Fisher and I mourn the passing of that era in journalism when columnists
picked fights with each other all the time, if for no other reason than
to have easy topics they could type up fast, then get to their favorite
taverns before . So let's start.
Bailey's Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences is a well-run magnet
school in the Falls
area where 54 percent of the 912 students are poor enough to qualify
for federal lunch subsidies and 77 percent are from immigrant families.
Fisher congratulated the principal, Jean Frey, for sending a letter
to parents last spring saying that even if the school failed to meet
its No Child Left Behind achievement targets this year, she would not,
as Fisher put it, "shutter her science lab, pull the plug on theatrical
productions or tell teachers to scrap a literature discussion to drill
kids on test facts."
I am happy Fisher spotlighted such a fine educator as Frey. She is serving
not only immigrant families in the school's neighborhood but also about
200 out-of-boundary students, mostly from English-speaking middle-class
families who have chosen Bailey's because of its good programs. There
are also some middle-class families in the neighborhood who have stayed
for the same reason.
Fisher is right to point out that No Child Left Behind is a clumsy instrument.
Some schools have reduced arts classes to make more time for reading
and math. Some schools have been hurt by getting too many transfer students
from low-performing neighbors.
But Bailey's is not one of those schools. Nor does it appear that there
are many schools in the Washington area suffering from these alleged bureaucratic outrages.
If anything, Bailey's has been helped by the new federal law because
its accountability rules give good principals such as Frey power she
never had before.
Many critics of No Child Left Behind hint darkly of monstrous educational
practices about to devour the best schools. But when asked to point
them out, they have trouble coming up with examples. Fisher says in
the Bailey's column that "many schools hack away at the arts to
focus on test-taking skills."
I am willing to buy him a new Washington Grays baseball cap if he can
find any such schools in FairfaxCounty, a well-run system whose principals and teachers have
been preparing students for the new tests without wringing the joy out
Frey herself acknowledges that Bailey's teachers would spend time reviewing
and assessing with or without the worries of No Child Left Behind, because
they know that review is a vital part of the learning process and that
a variety of assessments are invaluable to ascertaining what parts of
the lesson have or have not been absorbed. All she wants is an assessment
system that gets results back to her more quickly and a reduction in
the number of tripwires in the federal law so Bailey's isn't labeled
as "needing improvement" just because a few too many of her
Spanish-speaking students could not pass their English tests.
When Congress tries to revise the law next year, such good suggestions
are likely to be heeded.
As for the threat of student transfers from underperforming schools
to those that meet the federal requirements, people still prefer their
neighborhood schools, a phenomenon educators throughout the area have
Frey, for instance, said she had little fear that her immigrant families
would transfer out of the school if it did not meet the No Child Left
Behind requirements. She just wanted to assure the middle-class parents
who knew of the law that, no matter what they heard, their kids were
doing well. And in the end, Bailey's reached its testing targets after
No Child Left Behind is not the best accountability system ever invented.
But most policymakers and educators say it has the right idea.
Learning should be measured with tests. Standardized tests are in many
ways better than the teachers' tests that have ruled schools up to now,
because teachers can quietly decide not to test concepts that they have
failed to teach well. Other forms of assessment, such as collections
of work and conversation with teachers, have potential, but nobody has
yet shown a way to make them work well with elementary school children
from low-income homes.
Good educators such as Frey need a standard to guide them, a target
to shoot for, so they can persuade teachers to spend more time helping
struggling students, persuade parents to make sure homework is done
and persuade administrators at headquarters not to choke them with red
To borrow an example from the little world Fisher and I inhabit, many
people at The Washington Post are concerned about a recent drop in circulation.
Everyone is talking about how to find more subscribers.
But what Fisher and I don't do is brag about our energetic reporting
and deft metaphors and denounce the whole idea of measuring our sophistication
as journalists by something so mundane as how many copies of the paper
Helping kids learn requires knowing each year how much they haven't
learned and using those numbers to do something about it. The educators
at Bailey's know that, and I suspect the skeptics out there, particularly
those as smart at Marc Fisher, will figure it out soon enough.
POPLAR BLUFF, Missouri-- A new policy
at a high school requiring students to wear identification badges has
prompted some parents to complain and students to protest the move as
an infringement on their rights.
The badges, which are identical to the IDs students have always been
required to carry and use to check out library books at Poplar BluffHigh
are now required to be worn on campus during school hours.
"We need to be able to identify people without having to walk up
to them and ask if they are a student or a teacher," said Sheldon
Tyler, an assistant principal at the high school in this town of 16,700
about 150 miles south of St.
Some students have put stickers on their badges in protest -- a policy
the superintendent has permitted as an exercise in free speech. One
father, John Durbin, withdrew his two daughters until he can talk to
the school board about the policy.
"I believe this country needs security. But if we put ourselves
in a cage just to be safe, what kind of life do we have? There is a
fine line there, and I wonder if we are beginning to cross it,"
Durbin said the policy change should have been decided by the school
board instead of school administrators. He and other parents plan to
give the school board a petition at the next meeting on November 18
asking them to eliminate the policy.
THERMAL, California-- The federal
No Child Left Behind Act threatens costly penalties for schools deemed
failing to meet academic standards. In response, many educators have
a threat of their own: A flood of lawsuits aimed at avoiding the sanctions.
Since President Bush signed the sweeping education reforms in 2002,
the law has drawn criticism from educators debating its strict performance
and test requirements. The act requires all students to be proficient
in reading, writing and math by 2014.
Starting this academic year, parents of children in failing schools
can demand transfers to better campuses. Over the next four years, schools
must offer tutoring services, administrators and teachers can be fired,
states can take over districts, and federal funds can be withheld.
-- which includes OasisElementary
-- could be among the nation's first to challenge the law. The school
board is considering suing federal and state governments, claiming the
district is being held to unreachable goals.
"Coachella is the tip of the iceberg," John Perez, president
of United Teachers Los Angeles, said, adding that the law "doesn't
take into account things it needs to."
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, students
at more than 27,500 schools nationwide -- almost 31 percent of all U.S. public schools -- are failing at math and reading.
Last December, ReadingSchool
in Pennsylvania sued over its low performance rating, arguing its Spanish-speaking
students couldn't read the tests. About two-thirds of the district's
16,000 students are Hispanic; 15 percent have limited English proficiency.
But, judges ruled that testing in a student's native language is not
mandatory, only required "to the extent that it is practicable
to do so." The district plans to appeal.
"It's a wonderful title, No Child Left Behind. Who could ever disagree
with that?" said Richard Guida, a lawyer for the Reading district. "But kids are all different and, unfortunately,
this calls for a cookie-cutter approach to education that doesn't take
difference into account. Some kids will be left behind."
At Oasis Elementary, more than 90 percent of the school's students are
Hispanic and come from families of migrant workers surviving on less
than $10,000 a year, the principal says. They are taught in English
-- still a foreign language for many.
Christian Rocha, 8, looks down as he recalled last year's tests.
"Estaba trabajoso," he says quietly, or "I worked really
But he didn't pass.
Though there are plans to create a Spanish-language test, development
won't begin until at least 2006, said Linda Lownes, a consultant for
the state Education Department. In California,
students must take standardized tests in English.
Kathleen Leos, of the federal Education Department, noted that states
have the option of excluding test scores of students who have been enrolled
in a U.S. school less than one academic year. States also can
decide whether to offer a student reading and math tests for up to three
years in languages other than English.
That's little comfort for district officials struggling to keep up with
mounting academic expectations.
"It's unfair to hold us accountable for something students can't
possibly know," said Foch Pensis, CoachellaValley district superintendent. "How do you hold these
children to the same standard that you would a child in Iowa who has never been exposed to another language? It's
Pensis plans to seek allies in a class action lawsuit if legislators
don't try to ease the burden for schools with large numbers of English-language
learners. Education Department officials, however, say the No Child
Left Behind Act gives considerable leeway to such districts.
Bush has touted the law in campaign stump speeches as a centerpiece
of his domestic agenda, describing it as a way to hold schools accountable
for children they might otherwise ignore.
The federal government allocated a total of $58.3 billion for the program
in fiscal year 2005, but critics -- including Democratic nominee Sen.
John Kerry -- said that's far short of the money needed for schools.
In the meantime, at Oasis Elementary, where tests show most students
know less than 15 words of English, educators are working to improve
scores. They're also hiring outside consultants to better train teachers.
"We'll always have new children who don't speak the language, yet
each year more and more students are required to pass," Principal
Elizabeth Clipper said. "How do we ever catch up?"
Felony petitions were filed Tuesday charging two juveniles in an alleged
plot to bomb UintahHigh
Meanwhile, officials worked to reassure students and parents that everything
was safe as the school reopened after a previously scheduled three-day
"I had one mother come in and visit me before I came to work this
morning," Uintah County School Board member and County Commissioner
Mike McKee said. "She just wanted a little extra assurance that
everything was safe and, of course, that's reasonable."
Teachers met before school for a briefing by Uintah County Sheriff's
Sgt. Robert Ross, who then made an announcement to students on the school's
public address system.
"He reassured students that the matter had been investigated thoroughly
and that the building was as safeas
anyone could make it," said school superintendant Wayne Gurney.
Later on Tuesday afternoon, two boys, both 16, were charged in 8th District
Juvenile Court with making terroristic threats, burglary, attempted
vehicle theft and criminal mischief. The Salt Lake Tribune generally
does not name juvenile suspects.
Charged earlier this week as adults were students Steven Kunzler, 18,
and Todd Goodrich, who turns 18 today.
UintahCounty sheriff's officials said the four teens were plotting
to kill fellow students, teachers and administrators as well as their
Investigators said they discovered "hit lists" naming at least
10 victims, but the crux of the plan was to detonate an explosive device
in the school's "commons" area, "where it would have
the most impact," according to charges filed againstKunzler and Goodrich. One of the teens also
said he planned to use a firearm to shoot students.
Officials say the plan was thwarted before the teens were able to acquire
everything needed to make the attack.
LITTLE EGG HARBOR, N.J. -- A National Guard F-16 fighter jet on a nighttime
training mission strafed an elementary school with 25 rounds of ammunition,
authorities said Thursday. No one was injured.
The military is investigating the incident that damaged Little Egg Harbor
Intermediate School in southern New Jersey shortly after
Wednesday. The school is a few miles from a military firing range.
Police were called when a custodian who was the only person in the school
heard what sounded like someone running across the roof.
Police Chief Mark Siino said officers noticed punctures in the roof.
Ceiling tiles had fallen into classrooms, and there were scratch marks
in the asphalt outside.
The pilot of the single-seat jet was supposed to fire at a ground target
on the firing range 3 1/2 miles from the school, said Col. Brian Webster,
commander of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard,
which is responsible for the range. He said he didn't know what led
to the school getting shot up.
The plane was flying at 7,000 feet when the shots were fired. The gun,
an M61-A1 Vulcan cannon, is located in the plane's left wing. It fires
2-inch-long bullets that are made of lead and do not explode, Webster
"The National Guard takes this situation very seriously,"
said Lt. Col. Roberta Niedt, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department
of Military and Veterans Affairs.
"The safety of our people and the surrounding communities are our
foremost concern," Niedt said.
The jet that fired the rounds was assigned to the 113th Wing of the
District of Columbia Air National Guard, based at Andrews Air Force
Base in Maryland. The plane returned there after firing the shots, Webster
He would not identify the pilot or detail possible disciplinary measures.
Mike Dupuis, president of the township's Board of Education, said school
workers are mindful that the firing range is nearby.
"Being so close to the range, that's always in the back of our
minds. It is very scary. I have children in that school and relatives
that work there," he said.
The 2,400-acre Warren Grove range, about 30 miles north of Atlantic City, has been used by the military since the end of World
War II, long before the surrounding area was developed.
In 2002, an Air National Guard F-16 that had been practicing attacks
at the range crashed along the Garden State Parkway. The plane's pilot ejected safely, and no one on the
ground was hurt.
Errant practice bombs were blamed for forest fires that burned more
than 11,000 acres of the Pine
Barrens near the range in 1999 and more than 1,600 acres in
Like many adults, Debbie Mandel of Lawrence, N.Y., has fond memories of walking to school when she was
young. Now, as the mother of three children who have all depended on
school buses for transportation, she laments this loss of daily exercise.
"But," she adds, "I didn't have to carry so many heavy
books. Their backpacks are way too heavy for walking."
Jen Singer, a mother of two young children in Kinnelon, N.J., finds another factor contributing to sedentary lives:
parental concern for children's safety.
"My mother would tell us to go outside and play until dinnertime,"
she recalls. "But I can't send my kids outside unless I go with
them. If I'm making dinner, they have to stay inside and watch a video."
At a time when childhood obesity is the subject of daily headlines,
experts point to obvious culprits: too much junk food and too many hours
Yet those represent only part of the problem. From school buses and
supervised play to more homework and less recess, a host of other factors
in families, schools and suburbs have created a sea change in children's
lives, conspiring against physical activity and contributing to their
In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has doubled for children between
the ages of 2 and 5 and tripled for 6- to-11-year-olds. More than 15
percent of children between 6 and 19 are considered obese. Countering
that trend, child advocates say, will require nothing less than a multipronged
"There's been a great shift in cultural values," explains
Rhonda Clements, president of the American Association for the Child's
Right to Play. "In schools, we see a much greater emphasis on a
need for academic skills at the earliest possible age. Unfortunately,
because of the emphasis on schoolwork and productivity, some of the
basic childhood activities that were part of every other generation
have been eliminated."
Changing lunch hour
Today, less than 6 percent of high schools require juniors and seniors
to take physical education. Clements also sees an "enormous decrease"
in the number of school playgrounds. And recess has disappeared in some
elementary schools where principals, anxious about preparing students
for high-stakes standardized tests, have deemed it "nonproductive."
Lunch hour is another culprit in some schools. Although cafeteria menus
are coming under fire, the problem goes beyond what children eat to
include when they eat. Crowded schools must extend lunch hours to serve
"If lunch hour is too early and the kids aren't hungry, they may
not eat a healthy meal, and then they'll snack later," says Chris
Economos, an assistant professor of nutrition at TuftsUniversity. "If lunch hour is too late, they'll snack first
and not be hungry for a good lunch."
The demise of neighborhood schools also encourages sedentary lives.
Many school districts have built "mega-schools" on huge sites
at the edge of town, which few students can reach by walking.
Suburban sprawl also means that parents may drive children miles to
play with friends or participate in extracurricular activities, sports,
music lessons, and tutoring sessions. Mothers average an hour a day
driving their children around, according to the Surface Transportation
Recipe for inactivity
For more than 14 million children -- one-quarter of students between
kindergarten and 12th grade -- no parent is home after school. They
must take care of themselves. Many receive strict instructions from
parents: Lock the door and don't go outside. It's a recipe for inactivity
and an opportunity to snack. Only 11 percent of students -- 6.5 million
-- attend after-school programs, where they are likely to get a nutritious
snack and take part in fitness activities.
"Changes in family life mean that even many young kids are feeding
themselves," says Steven Mintz, co-chair of the Council on Contemporary
Families. "It's not just after-school snacks. It's dinner."
Mintz sees food as a response to stress for some children. "We
as a society underestimate the kinds of stress that kids feel. Food
is one of the ways we deal with this."
Why so much youthful anxiety? "School is not such a pleasurable
place as it once was," Mintz says. He attributes part of that to
the disappearance of recess and gym, and to the greater emphasis on
testing. Even play is institutionalized, taking the form of play dates
or organized activities, such as Little League.
"Those activities often are very stressful," Mintz says. "They're
competitive but not fun."
In other cases, children may eat out of boredom. "I feel they're
hungry for parental attention," Mandel says. "If they don't
get it, they'll eat to fill up that hole. Parents aren't home enough.
Even when they're home, they're busy. They're stressed and depleted."
As one antidote to boredom, and as a way to encourage more nutritious
snacking, Mandel, the New
says, "The solution here is spending time with children."
Even at home, the growing emphasis on academic excellence is changing
children's lives. "You should see the homework my first-grader
has," Singer says.
One of the biggest factors contributing to children's less active lives,
she feels, is a culture of parental fear. Although her 7-year-old son
wants to ride his bicycle down their street and back, she won't let
him go alone.
"I just can't be sure that he'd be safe from predators," she
says, echoing the concerns of many parents. "When I was about his
age, my cousin and I rode our bikes to another town, bought candy, and
came back. But times have changed."
Other changes in children's lives can be found in their toys. "The
toy vehicles kids are riding in are battery-powered, rather than kid-powered,"
Clements says. "Computer games simulate the sport instead of having
children actually play the activity. Playing golf in your living room
by computer cannot replace the values we acquire from the actual social
interaction and physical participation in sports."
More time at the mall
A consumer culture is also changing children's activities. Families
that might once have enjoyed weekend activities outdoors are now likely
to say, "Wanna go to the mall?" Children do far more shopping
than in the past, according to Juliet Schor, author of "Born to
Buy." In 1997, she says, the average child between the ages of
6 and 12 spent more than 2-1/2 hours a week shopping, a full hour more
than in 1981. Children spent five times as much time shopping as playing
The distance from one end of the mall to the other encourages some parents
to buckle children into strollers, which are now available in larger
models to accommodate bigger children. And what is a trip to the mall
without a stop at the food court?
Yet encouraging news exists. Within the past two years, three states
-- Virginia, Michigan,
and Connecticut -- have passed laws mandating recess. Clements is "extremely
hopeful" that all state education departments will follow suit.
Efforts are also under way to reinstate physical education, Economos
says. Recommendations include a minimum of 150 minutes a week for elementary
school students and 225 minutes for high school students.
A national Walk to School Day in October is also gaining recognition.
By one estimate, 65 percent of students walked to school 30 years ago.
Today only 10 percent do.
In June, the Council of Educational Facility Planners International
dropped its recommendations calling for vast acreage for large school
sites. "That's a big deal, because it will give school districts
more flexibility in locating schools on smaller sites in places accessible
by walking and biking," says Constance Beaumont of the Oregon Transportation
and Growth Management Program.
Advocates also hope to increase the number of after-school programs,
giving more students activities.
"As parents and educators, if we don't expose them to a physically
active lifestyle as a young child, they will not acquire the values
that are needed for lifelong participation in sports and physical activity,"
Clements says. "The first step toward curbing this obesity issue
is making sure children are active on a daily basis. It's cost-effective."
As evidence that change is possible, Economos points to the widespread
shifts in public attitudes toward tobacco, recycling, and seat belts.
"It's all about a societal shift," she says. "It's a
long-term process. If we're all going to chip away at this for the next
20 years, we will see a change."
CharterSchool Measure Slips Into District Law
City Furious That It Wasn't Consulted
By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post Staff Writer, 11/4/04
Without consulting with District officials, Congress approved legislation
last month that requires the city to offer any surplus school property
to public charter schools for at least 25 percent less than its appraised
value before selling it to anyone else.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and several D.C. Council members complained
this week that they were never told about the measure, which was introduced
by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) as an amendment to the D.C. Appropriations
Act. They said the law is poorly written and has left in limbo the sale
of some surplus properties.
"You would think at least the congresswoman would know," Norton
said, adding that she has worked well with Landrieu in the past. "I
was completely irate."
A spokesman for Landrieu, who is a member of the Senate's Appropriations
subcommittee on the District, said the legislation was proposed by charter
school advocates who have complained for years about problems in obtaining
vacant school buildings from the District's government. The city's charter
schools, which receive public funds but are run independently of the
public school system, have experienced rapid enrollment growth, and
several are housed in cramped facilities.
The spokesman, Brian Geiger, acknowledged that the senator did not tell
city officials about the measure but said she was not obligated to do
so. He said that the amendment became public Sept. 21 with the rest
of the appropriations bill and that city officials had two weeks to
read it and make comments before it was passed. City officials said
the amendment was tucked away in a bill that covered scores of pages.
Language in the D.C. Appropriations Act had encouraged the city to give
"preference" and a reduced rate to charter schools in the
sale of surplus school buildings. The new law states that charter schools
must be given "a right of first offer" to lease or purchase
such buildings at a 25 percent discount.
At a D.C. Council hearing on school issues Monday, several council members
said it was "outrageous" that Friends of Choice in Urban Schools,
the nonprofit group that lobbied for the change, also did not tell city
officials about the proposal. They also said the law is difficult to
implement because its wording is vague.
"The law is ambiguous, it's clumsy, it's harmful and it's an outrage,"
said council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).
Graham said the law could force the city to sell the former FranklinSchool, in downtown Washington's Franklin
Square, for far less
than it is worth.
Alicia Daugherty, a policy and programs associate with the nonprofit,
told the council that the group had gone to Congress out of frustration
after trying for years to work with city officials. She said the city
would never have approved charter schools in the first place without
Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) disputed Daugherty's comments,
saying council members had ushered charter schools into the city.
"To suggest you wouldn't have made progress without federal intervention
. . . frankly is an insult," Schwartz said. "I resent when
people decide to circumvent the local government and go to Congress.
'Let Big Daddy do it.' "
Malcom Peabody, president of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, acknowledged
that the group's actions had upset the council.
"We've now gotten them very angry at us, and I'm sorry about that,
but each one of those council members has been advocates themselves
-- some of them very successful at it -- and I think they would have
done the very same thing in our position."
Norton said Landrieu has agreed to try to develop new language to address
the city's concerns about the amendment, but Norton said she is not
sure when that will happen.
Chris Bender, a spokesman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), said the
mayor's office is having "ongoing discussions" with Congress
on the issue.
The D.C. Council, meanwhile, is drafting its own legislation to ensure
that charter schools cannot buy city property at a discount and then,
if the schools fail, sell the property to a developer.
Norton and council members said the amendment passed by Congress violated
the spirit, if not the letter, of the D.C. Home Rule Act because the
1996 law that created charter schools in the District is part of the
Peabody disagreed, noting that Congress passed that law and
has since amended it.