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State Journal: Taking a new tack; Behind closed doors

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Even when a major school-reform bill escapes the fate that almost befell Oklahoma's this month and becomes law, the struggle over some of its more controversial provisions may continue by other means.

Education groups in Kentucky and Nebraska are looking at new tactics to achieve ends they fought for without success in their legislatures.

While the Kentucky Education Association supported most aspects of the massive overhaul of that state's educational system, many of its members were bitterly opposed to a section barring school employees from campaigning for candidates in school-board elections.

The ban was intended to help reduce the politicization and patronage that critics say have pervaded many school systems in the state. For many teachers, however, the provision represented a denial of one of their basic rights.

After failing in its lobbying efforts to delete the provision during legislative action, the kea is contemplating a lawsuit to block it.

A union delegate assembly held shortly after passage of the measure was set to approve a resolution calling for a First Amendment challenge to the ban. Pending further research, however, delegates decided to call on their leaders to "proceed with all due speed to regain" their electoral rights.

The chairman of the Nebraska School Improvement Association, meanwhile, has launched a petition drive to overturn the school-finance bill approved by lawmakers over Gov. Kay A. Orr's veto.

The bill raises state sales and income taxes, with the aim of reducing the schools' reliance on local property taxes.

Bob Mullendore, a Lincoln insurance agent, wants to collect the 28,221 signatures needed to force a ballot referendum on the law.

A Mississippi lawmaker is upset not only about the substance of a school-improvement package approved this month, but also about the way in which it was adopted.

Representative William J. McCoy said recently that he was angry that a House-passed provision aimed at encouraging school vocational-technical programs was removed by the six-member conference committee resolving differences between the House and Senate bills.

If the negotiations had not been conducted behind closed doors, Mr. McCoy said, the "vo-tech" provision might have survived. So he proposed a rules change requiring public access to conference committees' deliberations.

"After all," he said, "the most important things happen legislatively in conference."


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