Kentucky Governor and Lawmakers Urged To Settle Feud
An influential citizens' advocacy group in Kentucky last week strongly urged the governor and state lawmakers to set aside their differences and begin work on a comprehensive school-reform program.
"The people of Kentucky want to get moving with school reform, now,'' said Wade Mountz, chairman of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, at a Nov. 15 press conference. "It's time to come together, to end dissension, and to get on with the critical business of making Kentucky's schools better."
Since his election last year, Gov. Wallace G. Wilkinson and members of the General Assembly have sparred over the direction of the state's reform movement.
Lawmakers refused to enact a school-improvement package proposed by the Governor during this year's regular session, saying it posed a threat to previously adopted reforms. Mr. Wilkinson in turn insisted that his plan be reconsidered during a special session next January.
More recently, Mr. Wilkinson has resisted calls by lawmakers, the state school chief, and the Kentucky Education Association to revise the state's controversial new self-insurance health plan for teachers during the special session.
Last week, the Governor and key lawmakers discussed plans for another special session to pass a law implementing the state's newly authorized lottery. The meeting was cordial and could mark the start of a thaw in their relationship, observers said.
The Prichard Committee last week also announced that it would distribute one million booklets statewide that would argue the case for additional school improvements. The pamphlets will include pre-addressed postcards urging quick acel10ltion that Kentuckians will be asked to mail to elected state officials.
According to Mr. Mountz, the citizens' group believes it is essential that the state address all of the following issues: early-childhood education, school "restructuring," upgrading the stature of the teaching profession, and eliminating financial mismanagement and nepotism in school districts.
"One single step, although it may be politically attractive, will not do the job," he warned. "Small or piecemeal steps will be insufficient to correct Kentucky's debilitating backlog of undereducation."
Mr. Mountz also noted that the Governor and lawmakers may have to raise taxes to implement the suggested new programs and to comply with a state-court order that declared Kentucky's school-finance system unconstitutional.
"Current low levels of education funding can barely support mediocrity, much less improvement," he said. "To create new programs without funding, without the means for paying for them, is to raise false hopes and to mislead people about what has actually been done."
Members of the Prichard Committee were expected to meet with an interim legislative education committee late last week to outline their proposals.--rrw