Short Stuff

NAACP Sues Florida

T he NAACP filed suit in August against Florida's education department, claiming that its grade-promotion standardized test (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, FCAT)) discriminates against Black students who lack the resources white students have to pass the test.

Nearly 33,000 students must repeat the third grade due to flunking the FCAT. Passing the test is also mandatory for graduating seniors. The NAACP argues that Florida is violating its constitutional duty to give an equal and quality education to all students since predominately minority schools have poorer facilities and resources to prepare students to take the test.

Latino Education

L atino children need quality preschool in order to close the achievement gap, according to a recent report published by the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators and the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute.

The students' lack of access to preschool classes that help them apply English through storytelling and speaking is a primary cause of the achievement gap between Latinos and students of other ethnic groups.

A copy of the report, "Closing Achievement Gaps: Improving Educational Outcomes for Hispanic Children" is available online at www.trpi.org.

Budget Woes Force Preschool Cuts

C olorado, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, and Tennessee all sacrificed parts of their preschool programs to keep their budgets in the black. A poll taken by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) showed that out of 18 states, only eight were able to maintain their preschool funding at current levels.

In a NIEER press release, director Steve Barnett said that these cuts could affect how related programs, like Head Start, will fare. "Cutting preschool programs in response to a budget crisis is penny wise and pound foolish, as it increases costs to taxpayers later on."

Only two states, Louisiana and New Jersey, were able to increase the amount of preschool spending for the next school year.

School for Gay Students

H arvey Milk High School, named for an openly gay San Francisco city supervisor who was murdered in 1978, is expanding its enrollment this year. Located in Manhattan's East Village, the public school is the first in the nation geared toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students.

The school was created as a safe haven for students who are harassed verbally and physically in traditional schools because of their sexual orientation. A state lawmaker filed suit against the school in August, saying that it violates the constitutional rights of other students. Former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Norman Siegel, feels that the school's premise "turns back the clock" on integration. A dozen protesters appeared on the first day of school but were overshadowed by about 250 supporters.

A 2001 survey done by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network found that 83 percent of gay students reported being harassed because of their sexual orientation. The same study also noted that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students are more likely than others to drop out of school or contemplate suicide.

Charters Racially Isolating

Nearly 70 percent of Black students who attend charter schools attend ones that are extremely segregated, says a July report by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.

The report, third in a series about public school segregation trends, argues that charter schools isolate students racially and make little effort to change that.

The report says that the charter schools have become "pockets of segregation" for both white and Black students.

A copy of the report is available online at www.civilrightsproject.harvard.edu.