State Officials Try to Redefine 'Adequate' Education

"ADEQUATE" EDUCATION: Officials in Kansas and New Hampshire have floated the idea of redefining the level of education the state should provide in light of the fiscal crisis. Like most states, Kansas and New Hampshire are constitutionally required to offer an "adequate" or "suitable" public education. But defining those terms has led to a spate of lawsuits from school districts, arguing that states were not providing enough funding to satisfy the constitutional requirements. Courts have sided with the school districts, forcing state governments to commit to a certain level of funding. In Kansas, where a lawsuit is under way, Governor Sam Brownback wants the legislature to define a "suitable" education, leading some education advocates to fear that the Republican-controlled legislature would set the bar too low, the Kansas City Star reports. In New Hampshire, Represenative Ralph Boehm wants to exclude art, world language, health and technology classes from the state's definition of adequate public education, according to the Concord Monitor .

LIMITING UNION POWERS: An Indiana Senate committee approved a bill limiting teacher bargaining rights that has been a key piece of Governor Mitch Daniels' proposed education reforms. The Senate labor committee voted 7-2 on a bill to limit collective bargaining agreements to wage and wage-related benefits, the Associated Press reports. Proponents argue that current bargaining arrangements focus too much on minor details such as vacuuming techniques and classroom temperatures. Opponents say school districts and teachers' groups should have the flexibility to negotiate their own contracts. Although officials in several states have been trying to rein in unions, the argument has been particularly heated in Indiana where the Daniels administration has clashed repeatedly with the Indiana State Teachers Association.

BUDGET CUTS: Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval proposed trimming K-12 education by around 9 percent and higher education by 18 percent, the latest in a series of big school budget cuts proposed by governors to balance budgets. Sandoval unveiled the cuts during his state of the state address last week. "While this is not ideal, I believe the reductions are within reason if the education establishment is willing to make real changes in how those dollars are spent," he said. Teachers watching the speech said they were "very disappointed," according to the Las Vegas Sun .

CAMERAS IN THE CLASSROOM: Video cameras could soon be monitoring teachers in four Wyoming school districts. The Senate Education Committee approved a measure to place cameras in classrooms as a way to evaluate teachers' effectiveness. Evaluations would then be used to determine teacher pay raises, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. The bill would make Wyoming among the first states to film teachers in the classroom. A pilot program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has already placed cameras in classrooms in six urban school districts to identify successful teaching practices.

PRE-K CUTS: Universal pre-Kindergarten is on the chopping block in Iowa , where Governor Terry Branstad has proposed reducing funding for the program from $71 million to $43 million and requiring families to bear part of the cost. Branstad also wants K-12 spending to remain flat next fiscal year, according to the Des Moines Register .

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