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State Journal: Soft goals; No choice injection

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Spurred undoubtedly by the tide of public opposition that has hit outcomes-based education efforts in Pennsylvania and other states, Gov. Arne Carlson of Minnesota said recently that he wants to make sure that people are solidly behind the idea before the state moves ahead with its planned shift to a results-oriented system.

Mr. Carlson told reporters that the state board of education should consider delaying its plans, which call for starting pilot projects this fall.

While O.B.E. has been less controversial in Minnesota than in other states, there are signs of growing popular uneasiness with the concept. Ironically, some of the increased attention and concern appears to have been the result of the Governor's firing this summer of Commissioner of Education Gene Mammenga for a lack of progress toward the new system.

"Frankly, if you don't have the students, if you don't have the parents, if you don't have the teachers, if you don't have the community on board, you're not going to succeed anyway,'' Mr. Carlson told reporters.

The Governor also voiced the common criticism that O.B.E. focuses on social values instead of academic achievement.

"I want all the soft goals out. I want the hard, definable, measurable goals in,'' he said. "You can't measure, for instance, whether or not a student has acceptable social values. But you can measure a student's competency in mathematics.''

"[Value standards] aren't measurable, they aren't tangible, and they're way outside the scope of any normal educational system,'' he added.


School-choice backers have failed for now in their attempt to inject the issue of vouchers into Texas's ongoing education-finance debate.

A group of parents, backed by the Texas Justice Foundation, sought to have proposals for the state to pay private school tuition considered in the latest lawsuit over finance, which is scheduled to go to trial next week.

The legislature last spring passed a new law aimed at reducing funding disparities in the state, which required wealthy school districts to transfer some of their property wealth to poorer systems. The law is being separately challenged in court by groups of rich and poor districts.

The pro-voucher plaintiffs argued that the state's public schools fail to meet the constitutional mandate for an "efficient'' education system, so the state should pay parents who want to enroll their children in private schools.

After a hearing last week, however, State District Court Judge Scott McCowan ruled that the choice issue did not belong in the current suit.--H.D.

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