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State Journal: Poor review; Maternal guidance

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State Comptroller John Sharp of Texas, whose work in ferreting out wasteful spending in state government has been cited as a model for the Clinton Administration's efforts to "reinvent government'' at the federal level, has taken on the Texas Education Agency.

Mr. Sharp's audit, released last month, found that the operations of the state education department are riddled with bureaucratic waste and inefficient technology.

The "performance review'' urges 130 changes in T.E.A. operations that, it says, could save a five-year total of $53.2 million in an agency with a current annual budget of $58 million.

Some of the report's sharpest criticisms were reserved for the agency's job-tenure policies.

"Almost from the moment they walk in the door for their first day on the job, T.E.A. employees receive tenure,'' Mr. Sharp said.

"No other state agency offers such guarantees,'' he added. "Even our best university professors are tenured only after meeting a series of professional requirements.''

The audit also faults the agency for apparently having too many advisory committees, although it notes that "the problem is, T.E.A. doesn't seem to know how many of these committees exist.''

Other areas targeted for criticism included the department's computer operations, budget process, and textbook policies.

Commissioner of Education Lionel R. Meno, who had requested the audit, promised to try to implement its recommendations.

When the Tennessee legislature last month passed a bill authorizing student-initiated prayer at school events, Gov. Ned McWherter told reporters he would refuse to sign the measure.

Mr. McWherter cited opinions by the state attorney general indicating that the legislation would conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year banning school-sponsored prayers at graduation ceremonies.

The Governor declined to go a step further, however, and veto the measure. Under the Tennessee constitution, a bill becomes law within 10 days if the governor neither signs nor vetoes it.

"I would never veto a bill to allow prayer,'' Mr. McWherter said.

But while that stance may partly reflect political reality, since the bill passed with broad support in the legislature, the Governor cited an even more important factor in his decision not to reject the bill outright.

"In addition to that, my mother would turn over in her grave,'' he explained.--H.D.

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