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To Fill Void, Officials From 9 States Form Coalition

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Top education officials from nine states are forming a new coalition designed to spur local reform and spurn federal involvement in schools.

The 11 members of the new group, the Education Leadersno apost. dl Council, said they hope to fill a void they maintain is left by traditional education-policy groups.

These groups look to Washington and the federal government for solutions to problems in education and ignore significant, home-grown policy options, argued Lisa Graham, the Arizona state schools chief and the chairwoman of the new coalition.

"They attack community attempts to set academic standards as exclusionary and small-minded," Ms. Graham said in a statement announcing the group's formation. "They shrug when local school boards are stripped of their rightful responsibilities and applaud increased federal control."

newTwo of the state schools chiefs who have helped set up the new group, Linda C. Schrenko of Georgia and Eugene W. Hickok of Pennsylvania, have criticized the Council of Chief State School Officers, the traditional lobbying and resource arm of the state chiefs. (See Education Week, Sept. 13, 1995.)

They specifically noted the ccsso's aggressive lobbying campaign against cuts in federal education programs proposed by Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Ms. Schrenko has said she is pulling Georgia out of the group; Mr. Hickok said last week that he is withholding Pennsylvania's membership dues for the ccsso.

In addition to Ms. Graham, Ms. Schrenko, and Mr. Hickok, chiefs from two other states have joined the new coalition: Frank Brogan, the Florida commissioner of education, and William C. Bosher Jr., the Virginia state superintendent.

Three of those state chiefs were elected last fall as Republicans; the two others were appointed by GOP governors. end new

But leaders of the new coalition said they would not be a conservative rump group of the ccsso or any other policy group.

"We're not putting ourselves out as an alternative to anything in the sense that you would have to belong to one group or the other," said John Root, a member of the New Hampshire state board of education and the new group's vice chairman.

As of last week, only Georgia had formally withdrawn from the ccsso, said Paula Delo, a spokeswoman for the organization.

Focus on Standards, Charters

newThe Education Leaders Council was scheduled to formally announce its formation this week at a news conference in Washington. More state leaders joining the group may be announced at that time.

State school board members who already have signed on are Mr. Root; Kenneth Bennett, the vice president of the Arizona board; Jerry Hume of California; Abigail Thernstrom of Massachusetts; Ovide Lamontagne, the chairman of the New Hampshire board; and Clark Durant, the president of Michigan's board of education.

The group in the next few months will work to expand its membership to include other state education leaders, local school board members, business executives, and interested individuals.

It also will promote initiatives for school-finance reform, development of academic standards, and the creation of charter schools.

The Center for Education Reform, a Washington-based clearinghouse for education policy, helped organize the group and will serve as its headquarters. Details regarding dues for members and financial backing for the group are still being worked out.

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