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Urban Anger

Some urban school superintendents in Minnesota were bristling last month over Gov. Arne Carlson's critique of student performance in the state's largest districts.

The governor, appearing at a news conference where he named an education task force, said children in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul were not doing as well on standardized tests as their peers in places such as Detroit and New York City. The director of the state's new department of children, families, and learning, Bruce Johnson, added that minority students in the state's urban centers were failing or dropping out at alarming rates.

The gloom-and-doom remarks were too much for St. Paul Superintendent Curman Gaines, who sent an open letter to Mr. Johnson's office expressing "shock and disappointment."

He said state officials had made unfair comparisons between districts and insulted low-income and minority families in his community--all in the name of political gain. The governor is lobbying hard for a voucher program aimed at urban schools.

Cyndy Brucato, the governor's deputy chief of staff, said Mr. Carlson was standing by his remarks.

The statistics "were supplied by the districts themselves," Ms. Brucato added. "The fact of the matter is, their test scores are declining. And we're talking about solutions."

Relative Loss

Kentucky's highest court has weighed in on anti-nepotism provisions of the state's 1990 school-reform law, and a member of the Caldwell County school board has lost his seat as a result.

Bill Newby of Princeton was first elected to the county school board in 1972. In 1987, a teacher in the district married his son. In 1990, lawmakers passed the nepotism prohibitions, which bar close relatives of school employees from serving on school boards.

The law excused incumbent board members. But the state went after Mr. Newby when he was re-elected in 1992. A state circuit court sided with Mr. Newby, but a divided appellate court ruled against him. (See Education Week, Jan. 18, 1995.)

Last month, the state supreme court ruled unanimously against Mr. Newby, ending the dispute.

Chief Justice Robert Stephens wrote that while it was a "harsh result" for the longtime board member, it was an easy decision.

"It is not within this court's power to create an ambiguity where none exists," he said.

--Joanna Richardson & Lonnie Harp

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