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State Journal: Bluegrass blues; Honk if you love schools

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Col. Chuck Scott, who endured 444 days of captivity as a hostage at the American Embassy in Teheran, was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at last week's annual meeting of the Kentucky School Boards Association. His topic: "Responding to Adversity."

The colonel's speech was particularly apt, considering that nearly as many days have elapsed since Gov. Wallace G. Wilkinson announced plans to convene a special session of the legislature devoted solely to school reform. Political sparring has thwarted those plans thus far.

At a news conference last month, Mr. Wilkinson said he had given up hope for a session in March, noting: "You could almost say that no two people in the commonwealth are in complete agreement."

But there were signs last week of a possible break in the logjam.

Members of the "grassroots group"--an informal coalition comprising most of Kentucky's leading education groups--met behind closed doors for two days, presumably to refine a draft reform agenda they had presented to Mr. Wilkinson earlier in February.

The document had included the Governor's proposal to create a limited number of "benchmark" experimental schools, but left out his plan to provide high-achieving schools with financial rewards.

Mr. Wilkinson also held an "education summit" with legislative leaders from Feb. 22 through Feb. 24.

A Colorado House committee has given a go-ahead to legislation that would allow private, nonprofit groups to create their own designer license plates, with one-third of the profits from sales earmarked for schools.

The bill was tentatively scheduled for a vote in the full House last week. Because it does not set a price on the specialized plates, it is unclear how much additional money would be raised for schools.

The remaining two-thirds of profits from sales would be split evenly between the sponsoring organization and the state's highway fund.

Representative Tom Ratterree, the Colorado Springs Republican who sponsored the measure, told reporters the legislature would not permit extremist and hate groups to spread their messages by using the plates. But, he added, religious organizations might be allowed to put messages such as "Jesus saves" on the tags.

Because the bill would require a change in the state constitution, it must be approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate and then by voters during the 1990 general election.--tm

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