Elsewhere

INDIANAPOLIS, IND.

City wants blacks back. In February, a federal judge rejected a bid by the Indianapolis public schools to reclaim 5,500 black students who are currently bused to suburban schools under a 16-year-old court order, according to the March 12 issue of Education Week.

Judge S. Hugh Dillin ruled that an arrangement under which black students from the city attend school in six predominantly white townships should continue indefinitely. Indianapolis school officials are appealing Dillin’s ruling.

The receiving suburbs, which initially resisted Judge Dillin’s earlier orders to accept poor black students, are now fighting to keep them. “It’s extremely ironic,” says David R. Day, a lawyer for two of the townships. “But as the kids have gone to school together, people have gotten to know each other. When you treat someone as a neighbor, you can’t just say, ‘You’re no longer my neighbor.'”

City school officials say the economics of the system are unfair. They say the townships are paid an average of $2,400 more per transfer student than the state allows Indianapolis to spend on its own pupils.

“If you live on one side of the street, the most the school district can spend on you is $5,455, but if you live on the other side of the street, the amount spent on you will be anywhere from $7,781 to $9,517,” says Rodney Black, the district’s business administrator.

The state pays the townships $47 million to educate Indianapolis transfer students this year, including $3.5 million for transportation. The townships argue that the higher spending is needed to overcome the disadvantages faced by inner-city children. Their representatives, including Day, deny that money is their prime motivation in wanting to keep the transfer students.

OMAHA, NEB.

Random drug testing. Next fall, middle schools and high schools in Omaha’s District 66 will ask parents for permission to test their children for the use of marijuana and other drugs, according to the March 12 issue of Education Week. The district seems to be the first in the nation to approve such testing for all students.

NATIONAL

Health agency push for P.E. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control urges schools to require students to participate in daily physical activity in grades K-12, according to the March 19 issue of Education Week.

Illinois is in a minority of states that have a daily P.E. requirement. Locally, the Chicago School Reform Board is seeking permission from the state to drop the daily requirement for high school juniors and seniors, beginning in September 1999.

Construction-aid debate. Republicans in Congress question President Bill Clinton’s proposal to boost spending on school construction and repair, according to the March 19 issue of Education Week. Clinton’s plan would give $5 billion to pay up to half the interest on school construction bonds floated by local districts.

Republican legislators warn that federal labor laws that apply to federally financed construction projects could drive up costs in some districts and wipe out the value of the interest aid. They also dislike what they call federal interference in a local issue.

Funding gap study. Illinois does less than other states to lessen the disparity between wealthy districts and poor ones, according to a study released in March by the General Accounting Office. Illinois ranks 46th of the 50 states in such efforts.

The study also shows that in Illinois, the level of school funding is tightly linked to the wealth of the local community. Illinois ranks 8th among the states in the effect of local poverty or wealth on local education funding, according to the report, “School Finance: State Efforts to Reduce Funding Gaps Between Poor and Wealthy Districts.”

Teacher salaries. Illinois ranks 10th in the average salary paid to public school teachers in 1995-96, according to the National Education Association. The Illinois average was $40,919; the national average, $37,685. Connecticut was highest, at $50,254; South Dakota, lowest, at $26,346. Chicago’s average was $43,867.

POMONA COUNTY, CAL.

Pants OK. To settle a lawsuit, the Pomona Unified School District has agreed to suspend part of a dress code that required female teachers to wear skirts or dresses, according to an article in the March 12 issue of Education Week. The district has also agreed to pay $10,000 plus lawyers’ fees to Roxanne Pittman, the 5th-grade teacher who filed the suit 18 months ago.

“I couldn’t see a logical reason for the rule, and that added to how I felt about it,” says Ms. Pittman. The dress code, which dates back to 1979, also violates a 1994 California law guaranteeing women the right to wear pants in the workplace.

The dress code applied to three “fundamental” elementary schools, where female students and teachers were required to wear skirts and dresses, while male teachers had to wear dress shirts, slacks and ties. The student dress code stands.