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State Journal: First-round loss; Rewards and sanctions

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Bob Etheridge, North Carolina's superintendent of public instruction, has lost the first round of his legal battle with the Governor and the state board of education over control of the state's education bureaucracy.

A superior-court judge this month ordered Mr. Etheridge, an elected Democrat, to turn over office memos and other documents to lawyers for Gov. James G. Martin, a Republican, and the board of education the Governor appointed.

The court order is just the beginning of what could be a prolonged legal process to resolve Mr. Etheridge's lawsuit against Mr. Martin and the board. The superintendent has claimed that the Governor's decision last year to appoint four employees who report directly to the board was unconstitutional.

In response to the judge's ruling, Mr. Etheridge handed over some documents, which his opponents hope will show that the superintendent has been less than helpful in providing information to board members, approving their equipment purchases, and supporting the board's work.

Mr. Etheridge faces a strong primary-election challenge next week from Owen Phillips, the superintendent of schools in High Point. And the legislature next month is expected to consider a proposal to make the state superintendency an appointed rather than elected post.

Within weeks of passing the largest tax increase in the state's history, some Maryland lawmakers believe they have been rewarded--or perhaps punished--for their vote.

The state Board of Public Works, chaired by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who had lobbied strenuously for a tax hike, this month handed out $35 million in school-construction funds.

Now some legislators who voted against the tax bill are complaining that the board purposefully slighted their districts.

"I thought the Board of Public Works vote was more on the basis of politics, rather than on policy,'' said Delegate John S. Morgan, a Republican from Howard County who had opposed the tax increase.

Mr. Morgan pointed out that his district did not get any construction money, while the only Howard County project approved by the board happened to be in the district of the only county legislator who had voted for the tax plan.

Page Boinest, a spokesman for the Governor, would not confirm or deny that politics played a role in the allocation. "There are some legislators that have continually supported programs like school construction and some have not,'' she would only say.
--D.G. & E.F.

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