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State Journal: An investment gamble; Celebrity criticism

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Officials of the Texas Teacher Retirement System are used to gambling. The pension fund holds a portfolio of about 1,000 stocks and manages about $45 billion in its varied investments.

But some questions are being raised about a recent roll of the dice: a decision to sink some of the money into companies that own casinos.

Officials of the system have shrugged off the criticisms of gambling foes about their investment of $13 million in Harrah's Entertainment Inc. and $5 million in Showboat Inc.

Managers of the retirement fund have said that wise investing, not an endorsement of legalized gambling, is their intention.

So far, those bets have paid off. The fund reports that the value of the Harrah's stock alone has risen about $4 million.

The Texas officials have also pointed out that the mammoth $91 billion California public employees' retirement fund has them beat: It's invested more than $80 million in casino companies.

Actor Danny Glover, who portrayed the frazzled partner of manic cop Mel Gibson in the "Lethal Weapon" films, took a shot at a new target last month: his native state's plans to cut education and social-services spending.

"I don't know where Georgia ranks in education. I can't imagine that it's in the top 10," said Mr. Glover, speaking at a conference of Georgia school social workers.

"So what are we talking about downsizing?" he asked, according to a report in the Augusta Chronicle, a newspaper in the state.

Mr. Glover, who hails from Wrens, Ga., addressed the group immediately after a presentation by Frank Smith, the Georgia education department's consultant for psychological services.

Mr. Smith had warned the social workers that because the department was downsizing, it could no longer provide the same kind of support as it had in the past.

Mr. Glover "apparently mistook my point," said Mr. Smith, "and took that as a message that the state of Georgia was declaring itself unable to take care of children."

The legislature approved a fiscal 1996 budget that cuts spending on education personnel by $17 million, and state Superintendent Linda Schrenko has also cut her agency's administrative budget by $3 million.

--Lonnie Harp & Meg Sommerfeld

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