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State Journal: Candidate nobody; Kids voting

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In a year in which "none of the above" often seemed to be the people's choice in many election contests, the school-board elections in Kentucky last week provided the perfect counterpoint--"nobody" was a major candidate.

Nobody was listed on the ballot for 10 school-board seats in six districts in the state.

Nobody also provided the only opposition to a much larger number of school-board candidates running unopposed.

The dearth of contenders was a highly unusually development in a state in which school-board seats frequently are seen as prize political plums worthy of all-out electoral fights.

But then, little about education in Kentucky has been running on its traditional track since the legislature passed a massive, court-ordered restructuring law, which among other things barred board members from having a relative on the district payroll.

Particularly in the eastern part of the state, where kinship ties are strong and the schools a major source of employment, the anti-nepotism rule appears to have had a significant effect on potential candidates.

Some observers also suggested that candidates may have been discouraged by the bill's curbs on board powers, notably by shifting control over hiring to the superintendent.

But Robert F. Sexton, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, downplayed the significance of the candidate shortage, pointing out that nobody was running for only a handful of seats.

Mr. Sexton also noted that during legislative debate on the anti-nepotism rule--by far the most controversial element of the entire restructuring bill--critics had warned that efforts to halt favoritism and other abuses would prevent many people from seeking office.

"We said, 'If that's why they're running, then they shouldn't run,"' Mr. Sexton recalled.

Grown-up voters in Arizona last week were joined at the polls by 95,000 K-12 students.

The students were participating in a program called Kids Voting, which put special voting booths for them in most of the state's polling places.

Sponsors of the effort say they hope it will develop a lifelong voting habit in children, who may also encourage their parents to turn out.

One issue on which the students' votes diverged widely from those of their parents was on a ballot proposal to increase per-pupil school spending by $100 a year for 10 years.

Defeated by adults, the initiative was backed by the students by a two-to-one margin.--HD

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