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Plan for a Smaller School Board Advances in Ohio

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Gov. George V. Voinovich of Ohio was expected last week to approve a compromise with the state legislature that would nearly halve the number of positions on the state school board but continue the practice of electing board members from across the state.

Mr. Voinovich, a Republican, last year sought a smaller, appointed board in order to exert greater control over education policy.

Members of the Democratic-controlled Ohio House, however, would not support the appointed-board plan. Following a heated debate, leading Republicans conceded that the smaller board was the only step toward the new system that was politically feasible, and the House approved the plan last month.

Later last month, the modified version, which would trim the current 21-member board to an 11-member panel by next year, squeaked through the Republican-controlled Senate on an 18-to-15 vote.

Under the new law, board members will be elected from a territory that includes three adjoining state senate districts. Legislators have not yet set the boundaries, but they have until July 5 to approve them before the matter is turned over to Mr. Voinovich.

The law replaces the current scheme, which calls for one state board member to be elected from each of the state's Congressional districts.

State officials estimated that, under the new plan, each state board member will represent about 990,000 residents, compared with the current 570,000.

Some lawmakers argued that the larger board districts will dilute minority voting strength and make it harder for small towns and rural areas to have a voice on the board.

Proponents of the new plan predicted, however, that minority candidates and others can run successfully for the new seats and, once in office, will have a greater say in state education-policy decisions. The state board currently has only one minority member, Shirley Hawk of Cleveland.

Candidates for the new, nonpartisan positions must file for the fall election by Aug. 20, officials said.--L.H.

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