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State of Illinois - Governor Blagojevich 

News Clips

News Clips – Oct. 29 to Nov. 5, 2004

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STATE  
New technology keeps Kane schools up-to-date / Daily Herald
Schools looking for a cure while gov hawks cheap pills / Daily Herald
State speeds up teacher certification / Chicago Sun-Times
Forum puts taxes 'front and center' / Daily Southtown
Voters reject most tax increases / Chicago Tribune
School districts agree on consolidation / Monmouth Review Atlas
Union-Southern Consolidation Vote / Hancock-Henderson Quill
D300 ethics complaint referred to Madigan / Pioneer Press
Kid ID cards included with school portraits / Daily Herald
New way for teachers to pay / Daily Herald
Pershing School's Family Reading Night stresses participation / Decatur Herald & Review
Parents weigh in on school dress code / Rockford Register Star
Bracelets banned in school / Rockford Register Star
AP exams too costly / Chicago Sun-Times
Preventing truancy is a vital mission / Daily Herald
Pay for education, get smarter voters / News Sun

NATIONAL
'No Child' Being Somewhat Left Behind / Hispanic News
Official withdraws class-size policy / Houston Chronicle
Charter schools, education tax defeated / Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Bush Education Agenda Headed for Renewal / Education Week
Incumbents Fare Well in State Chiefs’ Races / Education Week
No One Need Feel Left Behind By Federal Education Mandate /
Washington Post
Parents, students protest school ID badges / CNN.com
Educators expect flood of lawsuits / CNN.com
Charges say juveniles planned to bomb school / Salt Lake Tribune
Fighter jet over N.J. strafes roof of school / Chicago Tribune
Why today's children are more obese than ever before / Daily Herald
Charter School Measure Slips Into District Law /
Washington Post

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STATE

New technology keeps Kane schools up-to-date
Gala M. Pierce, Daily Herald

With the help of geographic information systems technology, school officials can adjust boundaries and see how it affects every student and every building.

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
Northern Illinois University 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
Kane County 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 Superintendent Ed Cave 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.

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Schools looking for a cure while gov hawks cheap pills
Daily Herald Editorial 

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 drugs.

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 work.

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State speeds up teacher certification
Kate N. Grossman,
Chicago Sun-Times

Securing a teaching certificate just got easier for
Chicago public school teachers, the State Board of Education announced Wednesday.

The state board eliminated its backlog of certification applications from
Chicago and it will now take 30 days to process them instead of 15 months.

The board is still working on the backlog for the rest of the state. It is down to 12 months from 15.

Reducing the backlog is a top priority for Gov. Blagojevich's new state board, though critics say the governor helped create it.

Former board member Ron Gidwitz -- replaced by the governor -- said the backlog started because Blagojevich cut staff to save money.

State board spokeswoman Becky Watts said the agency, not the governor, decided where to reduce staff.

Gidwitz, however, said the certification department was targeted.

"The bottom line is without adding anyone to our head count we're addressing the [backlog] problem,"
Watts said.

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Forum puts taxes 'front and center'
Gina Kenny, Daily Southtown

Funding for education took center stage during a forum attended by more than 50 area residents and local government officials Wednesday on property tax reform.

The Matteson Area Chamber of Commerce and Rich Township High School District 227 hosted the forum at
Rich South High School in Richton Park.

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 Budget Accountability.

"
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 fiscal crises."

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
Richton Park, 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
Will County," 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.

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Voters reject most tax increases
Stanley Ziemba. Chicago Tribune

South suburban and
Will County voters, for the most part, held on to their pocketbooks in Tuesday's balloting on school, municipal and library tax-increase referendum measures.

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
Palos Park 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 system.

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 Thornridge High Schools.

"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
Cook County, tax-increase proposals were also rejected in Alsip, Hazelgreen & Oak Lawn Elementary District 126 and Thornton Elementary District 154.

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 County.

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 and Riverdale.

"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.

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School districts agree on consolidation
Matt Smolensky, Review Atlas

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 Lenox Township and Point Pleasant. However, it should be noted that Berwick, Floyd Township, Swan Creek, and Ellison Township 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 have them.

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 Jensen (2,024).

"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 committee.

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 School districts, which was passed in yesterday's election. The Southern/Union proposition passed 3-0 in Tompkins Township, 3-0 in Point Pleasant, and 64-11 in Ellison Township.

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Union-Southern Consolidation Vote
County Overwhelmingly Votes To Consolidate Schools
Dessa Rodeffer, Hancock-Henderson Quill  

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
Henderson County's precincts to consolidate Southern and Union's school districts.

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 majority."

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."

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D300 ethics complaint referred to Madigan
Teresa Black, Pioneer Press

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," Court said.

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 polls.

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Kid ID cards included with school portraits
By Nadia Malik, Daily Herald Staff Writer,
11/5/04

In addition to the usual school portraits, parents of
Palatine's Pleasant Hill Elementary 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
National Center 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 Hill.

The card comes with instructions on what to do if a child is abducted or missing.

"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 system.

"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 office.

"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."

Pleasant Hill are distributing the cards during parent/teacher conferences this week.

"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."

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New way for teachers to pay
By Sheila Ahern, Daily Herald Staff Writer,
11/5/04

High school teachers and coaches in
Lake Villa 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 meeting Thursday.

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
Antioch Community High School and Lakes Community High School.

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
Warren Township High School 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
Warren Township'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.

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Pershing School's Family Reading Night stresses participation
By VALERIE WELLS,
Decatur Herald & Review Staff Writer, 11/5/04

DECATUR - Decatur schools Superintendent Elmer McPherson got his "kid fix" Thursday.

That's what he calls visiting schools and spending time with children. On Thursday,
Pershing School held its annual Family Reading Night, and McPherson read a book about Clifford the Big Red Dog to the preschoolers and their parents.

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 possible.

"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 night."

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."

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Parents weigh in on school dress code
Surveys in the
Harlem School District show that opinion is split on uniforms.

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
Harlem School District?

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, Hononegah High School 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 Harlem Middle 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.

At
Harlem Middle School, students' clothing "must cover the student from the entirety of the shoulders to midthigh with no low or revealing necklines."

Loves Park 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 pants.

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
Harlem Middle 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
Lewis Lemon Global Studies Academy in Rockford. The magnet school has required uniforms since it opened in 1993.

"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
Lincoln Middle School, 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 two years.

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," Cadengo said.

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Bracelets banned in school
By ISAAC GUERRERO,
Rockford Register Star, 11/5/04

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 South Beloit Junior High School and Blackhawk Elementary School banned them in October, said dean of students Tim Hayunga. Administrators at Harlem, 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."

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AP exams too costly
Letter by Latrina Wilson of
Calumet City, Chicago Sun-Times, 11/5/04

[Re: ''Many students here skip AP exams,'' metro story, Oct. 31:] I am a junior at
Thornwood High School 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 not pass.

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 test.

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Preventing truancy is a vital mission
Daily Herald Editorial, 11/5/04

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 day.

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 school year.

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 low-income areas.

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 school.

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.

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Pay for education, get smarter voters
Column by Judy Masterson, 11/04/04

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
Lake County 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 and judges.

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!"

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NATIONAL

'No Child' Being Somewhat Left Behind
Dale Mezzacappa, Hispanic Business

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 high school.

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 lines.

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 1978.

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 by 2006.

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 more flexible.

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.

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Official withdraws class-size policy
Teachers groups say Neeley did not have the authority to increase numbers
By CLAY ROBISON,
Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau, 10/29/04

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' educational system.

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 her authority.

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," she said.

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Charter schools, education tax defeated
By Jake Ellison & Gregory Roberts,
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporters, 11/3/04

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
Washington's economy.

"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 ignored.

"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 Washington State University 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 going away."

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Bush Education Agenda Headed for Renewal
By Michelle R. Davis and Erik W. Robelen, Education Week, 11/3/04

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 2002.

“It’s 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. Bush’s 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: “That’s not to say that, administratively and legislatively, there won’t 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 president’s 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 maintained.

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. Porter-Magee.

“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 Senate’s 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 Carolina, 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 Bush.

At least one member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee won’t be returning to Capitol Hill next year. In
Georgia, Republican Rep. Max Burns appeared to have lost to his Democratic challenger, John Barrow, an Athens County commissioner.

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Incumbents Fare Well in State Chiefs’ Races  
By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo and Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week, 11/3/04

Incumbents swept races for state schools chief in four states—Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, and Washington state—while 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 state’s 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 post.

Ms. Bergeson, a former president of the Washington Education Association, the state’s 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 Dakota’s 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.

Indiana’s Republican incumbent, Suellen Reed, succeeded in gaining a fourth term as state superintendent. Ms. Reed’s 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 chief’s post an appointed position, but only after the Indiana legislature decides to change the law.

“The main thing [these results] tell us is that we’re 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 Fort Benton public schools.

Meanwhile, the superintendent’s 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 Wake County, each had 50 percent of the vote for the seat vacated by Mike Ward, who resigned in August. North Carolina’s 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 board.

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 Washburn University in Topeka, received 51 percent of the vote for a third four-year term.

The candidates’ views on science were an issue in the
Kansas race. The topic has caused considerable state and national debate since the state board’s 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. Wagnon’s 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 incumbents—Teresa L. Theurer, John C. Pingree, and Janet A. Cannon—on 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 state’s 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.

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No One Need Feel Left Behind By Federal Education Mandate
Jay Mathews,
Washington Post

Marc Fisher, a Washington Post Metro columnist, recently used the story of an excellent elementary school in
Fairfax County 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
noon. So let's start.

Bailey's Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences is a well-run magnet school in the
Falls Church 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
Fairfax County, a well-run system whose principals and teachers have been preparing students for the new tests without wringing the joy out of learning.

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 noted.

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 all.

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 tape.

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 are sold.

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.

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Parents, students protest school ID badges
AP,
November 2, 2004 

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 Bluff High School, 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. Louis.

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.

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.

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Educators expect flood of lawsuits
No Child Left Behind requirements may spur legal action
AP,
November 1, 2004

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.

Coachella Valley Unified School District -- which includes Oasis Elementary School -- 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,
Reading School District 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 hard."

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,
Coachella Valley 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 ludicrous."

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?"

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Charges say juveniles planned to bomb school
By Matthew D. LaPlante, Salt
Lake Tribune, 11/3/04

Felony petitions were filed Tuesday charging two juveniles in an alleged plot to bomb
Uintah High School.

Meanwhile, officials worked to reassure students and parents that everything was safe as the school reopened after a previously scheduled three-day break.

"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 safe   as 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.

Uintah County sheriff's officials said the four teens were plotting to kill fellow students, teachers and administrators as well as their own parents.

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 against   Kunzler 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.

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Fighter jet over N.J. strafes roof of school
Night exercise near firing range
By Wayne Parry, Associated Press,
11/5/04

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 11 p.m. 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 said.

"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 said.

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 2002.

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Why today's children are more obese than ever before
Christian Science Monitor,
11/5/04

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 of television.

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 expanding waistlines.

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 national effort.

"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 everyone.

"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
Tufts University. "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 Policy Project.

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 York mom, says, "The solution here is spending time with children."

Parental fears

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 outdoors.

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."

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Charter School 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
Franklin School, 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 federal intervention.

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 city's code.

Peabody disagreed, noting that Congress passed that law and has since amended it.

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