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Substitutes unite for better pay, training

Substitute teachers are seeking to form a national organization that would give them more bargaining power with school boards, a group of substitutes announced at their first national meeting last week. The substitutes want higher pay, health coverage, and more access to computer training and other professional development. Their pay averages about $65 a day. By comparison, the average US teacher makes about $225 per school day. Substitutes are needed more than ever because of teacher shortages, more students, and mandates for smaller class size, educators said. Some said that organizing would help attract more people to substitute teaching and raise hiring standards.

Special-education programs under fire

Debate over whether special-ed students should learn with the mainstream or work separately is heating up on both sides of the Atlantic. A US Department of Education report strongly criticized special education in Massachusetts for "serious noncompliance" with federal regulations, saying disabled children in the state have been denied necessary services and kept isolated from other children. It comes as a sharp rebuke to a state that prides itself as being among the nation's leaders in educating students with disabilities. Lawmakers said the report didn't account for improvements the state made in 1998 and 1999. They also said Massachusetts allows a higher percent of students to receive special education than almost any state, and promises an education that provides "maximum feasible benefit" - a higher standard than the US government's "free appropriate education."

Meanwhile, in England, a group of angry parents demanding special-education provisions for their children trapped special-needs teachers and administrators in a parking lot in Newham. The educators had just met with parents who disagreed with a school policy that says the best place for children with special needs is in mainstream schools. After officials failed to satisfy parents' demands, the furious group used cars to block parking lot exits until late in the evening, forcing educators to leave on foot.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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