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State Journal: Good news and bad news; Old group with a new cause

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Progress, like art, can also be in the eye of the beholder.

For example, consider a pair of press releases on minority participation in higher education in Minnesota, both dated Sept. 15.

The first release, issued by the office of Gov. Rudy Perpich, praises the state university system for "making encouraging progress" toward the goal of enrolling more minority students. More than 400 minority-group members, it says, are expected to enroll as freshmen at the system's seven campuses this fall, a development that the Governor considers "a very promising beginning."

The Governor's accolades for the university system, however, stood in marked contrast to the state higher-education coordinating board's announcement that same day that progress toward increasing minority enrollment in postsecondary education had nearly come to a dead halt.

Between 1986 and 1987, it said, the number of minority students in all postsecondary institutions rose by a scant 29, from 11,236 to 11,265. Although total postsecondary enrollment climbed that year by 10,395, or 4.6 percent, the proportion of minorities declined, from 5 percent to 4.8 percent.

A Georgia group that disbanded in 1985 after successfully lobbying lawmakers to pass a landmark school-reform bill has been resurrected by Gov. Joe Frank Harris to tackle a new job--convincing voters to pass a constitutional amendment that would transform the post of state school chief from an elected to an appointed office.

At a Sept. 12 luncheon to announce the rebirth of Georgians for Excellence in Education, Governor Harris said that "for the future of education in Georgia, there is no more important vote than a vote for Amendment Number 1."

Passage of the amendment, he said, would "take the politics of special interests out of public education" and would represent "the final link in securing our comprehensive plan for achieving excellence in education."

"We simply must be successful on Nov. 8," Mr. Harris said. Requiring the school chief "to run for office every four years means taking valuable time away from the management of [his] department" and the administration of the state's reform program, he added.

In 1984, Georgians voted 51 percent to 49 percent to reject an identical ballot proposal.

The revived lobbying group is being chaired by Spurgeon Richardson, general manager of the Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park.--tm

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