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KERA Foes Push To Overturn Ky. School Outcomes

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Critics of Kentucky's landmark school-reform law last week announced a campaign designed to urge lawmakers to overturn proposed school outcomes.

The state education department has worked this year to rewrite the outcomes, which now await the approval of a legislative committee.

Department officials decided to rewrite the outcomes after supporters of the 1990 reform law expressed fear that they were too vague and not written in language that parents and citizens could understand. (See Education Week, May 25, 1994.)

But critics charged last week that the new version still falls short, and in press conferences across the state, they announced a fund-raising campaign to pay for advertisements and materials to help make their case.

The group will urge support for its own version of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, a bill it will call the Academic Renewal Act of 1996.

Kentucky lawmakers are not scheduled to convene in session until 1996, but KERA critics promise they will be ready with a plan that includes outcomes heavily weighted toward academic content, a new state testing system, a diminished state education department, greater protection of student records, and voluntary reform programs.

"State education bureaucrats and ivory-tower education theorists siezed control of local schools and began mandating ideas and policies that many parents and teachers don't support," says a brochure for the campaign, launched by several conservative groups.

The group had intended a display of its disdain for the state's outcomes last week at a regulatory hearing where lawmakers were slated to consider the rewritten outcomes.

Vote Postponed

Action was postponed, however, after officials from the state education department did not attend the session. Lawmakers rescheduled their vote for November.

Donna Shedd, the vice president of the Kentucky Eagle Forum and a leader of the anti-KERA campaign, said lawmakers and parents were "stood up" by Thomas C. Boysen, the state education commissioner.

"They know that in November we don't have the leverage we do now of telling these lawmakers their constituents will not vote for them," she said. "That's going to hurt us, but we are still going to be turning up the heat."

Foes of the reform law had hoped to chip away at its provisions during this year's legislative session, but were unsuccessful after leading lawmakers worked to protect the plan and adopted some modifications, including the revised outcomes. (See Education Week, May 18, 1994.)

State officials said they sought a delay in the regulatory process in an effort to insure that lawmakers understand the rationale behind the new outcomes.

"There is a lot of information out there that is contradictory, and we want to take the time to help legislators understand these outcomes and to know what they do and what they don't do," said Armando Arrastia, a spokesman for the education department.

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