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Hot Line Permits Public To Weigh In With Ideas

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Polly Abney, a teacher in Kentucky, has an education-reform suggestion for state legislators: mandate that spring vacation, the boys' state basketball tournament, and the Kentucky Education Association's annual convention be scheduled to coincide each year to cut down on student absenteeism.

Another teacher, Eunice Russell, suggests that parents be required to undergo 6 to 12 hours of training before their children start school each year.

Both Ms. Abney and Ms. Russell made their proposals by calling a toll-free hot line established to let Kentuckians share their suggestions with legislators, who are under a court order to redesign the state's school system.

"It would surprise me if we don't get some useful ideas," said Joe Wright, the Senate Democratic floor leader and a member of the Task Force on Education Reform.

Mr. Wright requested that the hot line be established after appearing on a call-in program on public television on which the moderator and a caller suggested it.

Since the line was opened for business on July 28, nearly 250 Kentuckians have called and left suggestions on an answering machine.

Though not required to leave their names or occupations, many have. Most of the callers are connected to a school system, according to Glenn Osborne, a spokesman for the Kentucky legislature.

"We've had many practicing and retired teachers and administrators call in, as well as a good number of parents," Mr. Osborne said.

Each week, a summary of calls is printed and distributed to lawmakers on the task force.

One caller wondered whether his suggestions were honestly going to be heard, or whether the hot line was just a way of making people feel as if they had contributed.

Not only will all calls be reviewed, said Roger C. Noe, chairman of the House Education Committee, but he assured that innovative and politically practical suggestions will be considered.

"At least," he said, "they will help officials brainstorm, and they may give life to some old ideas."--rrw

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