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State Journal: Kentucky battleground; Tulip tiptoeing

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A meeting of the Kentucky state board of education last week was expected to become a battleground over the power structure of local school districts.

The state education department and the state school boards' association were at odds over how much clout should be given to new site-based-management teams.

Acting after a recent court ruling, the department had moved to ask the state board to declare that local school councils, created by the state's 1990 school-reform law to govern individual schools, are responsible for deciding instruction, staffing, discipline, and extracurricular activities and can be overruled by local school boards only if those policies conflict with state or federal law, raise liability issues, or bust the budget.

School board leaders, meanwhile, were rallying their troops and preparing for combat at last Thursday's state board session.

A letter last month from David Keller, the executive director of the school boards' group, urges local board members to lobby the state panel. Rather than knocking the school councils, however, Mr. Keller has targeted the opposition's general--Commissioner of Education Thomas C. Boysen.

Mr. Keller called the plan "the latest and most serious example of the clear movement toward an all-powerful commissioner and department of education.''

Although Georgia voters last week approved a lottery raising money for the schools, the ballot proposal's chief backer, Gov. Zell Miller, has given little of the credit for victory to the education community.

The lottery initiative, which passed by a narrow margin, directs that gaming profits be used for school air conditioning and computers, a pre-kindergarten program, and college scholarships.

Despite those benefits, the state association of school superintendents did not take a position on the proposal. At a meeting late last month, Mr. Miller blasted those who did not rally to his cause.

"One of the biggest disappointments in my life has been the way that some superintendents have tiptoed through the tulips all around it or ... strongly opposed it,'' the Governor said.

"Did I expect too much from you?'' he asked. "Maybe I did.''

The lottery proposal also had split the state P.T.A., which declined to fight it even though many members were opposed to the idea.
--L.H. & H.D.

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