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State Journal: Charter interest; Bare-knuckle tactics

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Swamped by phone calls from local educators interested in the state's new "charter school'' law, California education officials are bracing for the possibility that more groups than can be accommodated will apply to set up one of the 100 independent, publicly funded schools authorized by the legislature.

Some analysts have suggested that a crush of applicants could lead to a political battle over how to pick and choose from among aspiring charter schools.

But state officials last week were downplaying such concerns, emphasizing instead that the flood of local interest may dry up once people learn the nitty-gritty of establishing schools outside of district control.

State officials fielding local questions said they have learned from officials in Minnesota, which has a similar law, that interest in the program does not always turn into action.

Leaders of the California effort said they should have a better idea how many groups will persevere after workshops they are offering on the issue end next week.

"There is so much involved in creating a new school,'' said an official in the state education department's division of regional programs and special projects. "People will be finding that out.''

During the final days of the campaign, the Florida affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers unleashed some bare-knuckle media tactics in an effort to help its Democratic allies keep control of the Senate.

The Florida Education Association/United spent an estimated $40,000 on a series of radio and television ads that include sharp attacks on Sen. Richard H. Langley.

The ads running in Senator Langley's central-Florida district cite newspaper stories raising questions about his personal and business dealings.

The ads mention, for example, a 1990 plea by the incumbent to obtain a lighter punishment for a convicted child molester.

"Senator Dick Langley makes news,'' the ad says. "District 11 deserves more than bad-news Langley.''

Education groups in the state have frequently clashed with Senator Langley, a Republican, over funding levels.

But observers said a more important reason for the union's efforts may be the broader battle for Senate clout.

Democrats held only a 21-to-19 majority in the chamber before the elections, and analysts saw Senator Langley's seat as crucial in determining which party emerged with a majority.

The union campaign also included spots touting Mr. Langley's Democratic challenger, Karen Johnson.--L.H. & H.D.

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