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State Journal: Sticking with reform; Change partners; Dropping equality'

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The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a citizens' advocacy group that pushed for years for the kind of fundamental changes in schools embodied in Kentucky's 1990 education-reform law, has embarked on a major new effort to make sure that restructuring is put into place at the local level.

The cornerstone of the committee's campaign was laid this month with the announcement of a $250,000, two-year grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Robert F. Sexton, the Prichard Committee's executive director, said last week that the Carnegie grant and funds from state corporations and other donors would be used in part to hire grassroots organizers who would monitor school-district implementation of the law and help set up local volunteer groups to support reform.

"These reforms can be revolutionary," Mr. Sexton said, "but they won't be unless Kentuckians commit themselves to sticking with them."

An Alabama judge has approved the requests of some, but not all, of the state officials who wanted to switch from being defendants to plaintiffs in a school-finance lawsuit filed by low-wealth districts.

Saying they agreed that the state's current method of funding schools was unfair, Speaker of the House James S. Clark, Lieut. Gov. James E. Folsom Jr., Superintendent of Education Wayne Teague, and the state school board had asked last summer that they be allowed to join those challenging the system.

The judge ruled this month that Mr. Clark and Mr. Folsom could do so. But, the judge said, Mr. Teague and the state board could not because their goals might be different from those of the districts bringing the suit.

In Montana, meanwhile, a Republican state senator is trying to delete language in the state constitution that provided the legal underpinning for a 1989 court decision ordering a more equitable school-finance system.

The amendment proposed by Senator Thomas F. Keating would drop the constitutional guarantee of "equality" of educational opportunity, along legislature to provide a "quality" system of public education.

Mr. Keating argues that his proposal, which would have to be approved by both the legislature and the voters, would enable the state to avoid further finance-equity lawsuits.--hd

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