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State Journal: Horse of a different color in Kentucky; Passing the buck; A 'kitchen cabinet'

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For the first time in its history, the Kentucky Education Association's political-action committee has endorsed a Republican candidate for governor.

State Representative John Harper received the group's vote of approval this month "because we believe he is the best candidate for public education and continued education reform," said David Allen, president of the union and chairman of the kea-pac.

Mr. Allen noted that Wallace Wilkinson, the Democratic candidate in the Nov. 2 election, had declined several invitations since last November to meet with union officials.

Mr. Harper has listed dropout prevention, reducing class sizes, competency testing for beginning teachers, and protecting the education budget from reductions as among his objectives.

Mr. Wilkinson, meanwhile, has endorsed financial rewards for superior schools, the creation of 15 "benchmark school" demonstration projects, and the repeal "of every law and regulation" that constrains the ability of local educators "to innovate and change."

In another first, Gov. Ned McWherter of Tennessee recently became the initial benefactor of the state's Volunteer Public Education Trust Fund, pledging to donate $1 from each of his paychecks to the account. Authorized by the legislature in 1985, the fund will suppport public-education projects approved by a joint legislative oversight committee.

At a press conference, the Governor encouraged teachers, state employees, and the reporters covering the event to follow his lead and set aside $1 from each of their paychecks for the cause. "This can have a long-range effect on K through 12," Mr. McWherter said.

Gov. Kay Orr of Nebraska recently created a "kitchen cabinet" composed of three school administrators, an education-school dean, two parents, and an Omaha school-board member in an effort to obtain grassroots advice on precollegiate education.

Her first lesson: Don't underestimate the influence of the state's leading education groups.

After learning of the advisory group's creation, associations representing teachers, administrators, and school boards quickly contacted the Governor, wanting to know why their advice was not being sought as well.

Ms. Orr's aides defused the crisis by promising to invite the associations to future meetings.

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