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Educators Showcase Reforms Before National Audience

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LEXINGTON, KY.--For Kentucky educators and politicians caught up in the hard work of school improvement and the usual morass of fiscal woes, ethics investigations, and health-care conundrums, a national conference here last week provided an opportunity to relive the glory days when they conceived and created their state's epochal school-reform law.

For their audience from around the country, it was an opportunity to learn about what may be in their own future.

A national conference on Kentucky's 1990 school-reform law drew about 300 people from across the country for a chance to delve into the fine points of the law.

Participants from other states expressed something little short of envy as they pondered the depth and breadth of the Kentucky law, with its comprehensive approach to finance equity, school governance, and classroom reforms. And a panel of Kentucky lawmakers seemed to come alive in an opening session as participants from North Carolina, Rhode Island, Colorado, Texas, Washington State, and other states asked about their work.

"We've seen some of these initiatives at the school and university level, but not of this magnitude and not coordinated like this,'' said Polly Turner, the associate dean of education programs and curriculum at the University of New Mexico.

"We are very interested in what's happening in Kentucky that we could take back with us,'' she said.

Fanning the Flames

Rep. Alfred L. Walker Jr. of Mississippi said several officials from his state decided to visit the Kentucky conference after a school-reform task force was recently created there.

Most interesting, he said, was the way the 1990 law wove programs together--and how the legislature was able to pass it.

"When we get started with our meetings, we won't start with a blank slate,'' he said. "The more information we can get, the easier it is to get things done.''

While some participants focused on the law's comprehensive approach, others, such as John L. Rochester, the assistant director of governmental relations for the Ohio education department, came to learn more about one aspect of the program.

In Mr. Rochester's case, the topic was school finance. "These are some of the same things we'll be talking about in Ohio,'' he said.

Thomas C. Boysen, who became Kentucky's first appointed education commissioner under the reform law's radical changes in education governance, said officials decided to host the meeting after they were deluged with speaking requests at other conferences.

"This is our opportunity to respond to people's questions and get some feedback from them,'' he said.

For officials overwhelmed by the work of implementing reform, Mr. Boysen said, "maybe this will fan their flames a little bit.''

The conference also provided further evidence that Kentucky lawmakers consider the school program one of their great triumphs. Legislative leaders over the weekend announced plans to create a health-care-reform task force based on the one that produced the school-reform bill.--L.H.

The conference also provided further evidence that Kentucky lawmakers consider the school program one of their great triumphs. Legislative leaders over the weekend announced plans to create a health-care-reform task force based on the one that produced the school-reform bill.--L.H.

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