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State Journal: Striking out; Higher profile

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Kentucky lawmakers say they were way off base earlier this year when they passed a law that has unintentionally led to the demise of girls' slow-pitch softball.

The legislature passed a law allowing schools to offer fast-pitch softball for girls during this year's session. But angry parents and school officials arrived at the state Capitol earlier this month to tell a panel of lawmakers that what they thought was a hit should instead be ruled an error.

The law apparently prohibits schools from fielding a slow-pitch-softball team unless they first have a fast-pitch team. Last year, 269 Kentucky schools sponsored slow-pitch teams, while none played fast-pitch. This year, a survey by the state's high school athletic association shows 209 fast-pitch teams, 51 schools with both, and no schools playing slow-pitch only.

While the sponsor of the bill said she felt there was room in the law to allow greater flexibility for slow-pitch teams, most of her colleagues agreed that they will have to fix the problem when they meet again in 1996.

Then the girls and their allies can enjoy a favorite legislative pastime: playing hardball.

Alarmed at education's lack of prominence as an issue in current state election campaigns, top executives in Connecticut are opening their checkbooks.

The Connecticut Business for Education Coalition recently launched an advertising campaign asking voters to elect the candidates supporting school reforms.

The coalition also identified the reforms they should look for, including high standards, statewide preschool, technology programs, expanded teacher training, and school-to-work programs.

The business group includes about two dozen of the state's largest employers and is affiliated with the Business Roundtable.

Business leaders said that while they understand politicians are eager to focus on crime, jobs, and taxes, they may miss the forest for the trees.

"What the candidates and the media are missing is an understanding that reforming our system of education is at the core of all three issues," said Gary Wendt, the president of GE Capital and the chairman of the coalition. "Education reform has to be a more important issue to the candidates and to the voters."

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