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State Journal: Power sharing, Pop quiz

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In sealing an unconventional arrangement, Democratic and Republican leaders in the Virginia Senate have decided that, for now, power is best when it's shared.

After last November's elections left the chamber with a 20-20 split along party lines--with Democratic Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer Jr. holding the tie-breaking vote--Democratic leaders acknowledged that their narrow edge left them little power to dictate Senate organization.

Abandoning the combativeness that characterized the campaign season, Senate leaders concocted a plan under which Republicans will head or co-chair five of the chamber's 11 committees--including the powerful education and health committee.

The Republican chairman of that panel could give GOP Gov. George F. Allen a strategic venue to advance some of his new education-reform policies in the Senate. Democrats continue to hold a five-seat majority in the House of Delegates. (See Education Week, Jan. 17, 1996.)

"There's no question that we made history," said Sen. Warren Barry, the new Republican chairman of the education committee. "The parity means more participation by people with new ideas, and it's going to be good for the system."

Gov. William J. Janklow of South Dakota startled the audience for his State of the State Address earlier this month with a rapid-fire pop quiz.

"Name an American author. Write a story of his or her life using a one-page manuscript," the governor told his listeners a third of the way through the rambling, 90-page speech.

"Next question. Refer me to a literary selection that was studied during the year in which you may find a vivid description; to another having a good argument; and to another in which there is an interesting story."

He ticked off 17 more questions--including, "A barn roof is 84 feet long. What will it cost to place an eaves trough along two sides if they cost 55 cents per 10-foot length?"--before concluding the dizzying inquisition as abruptly as it began.

His point, Mr. Janklow explained, was that he was asking questions from the state exam administered to 7th graders on March 26 and 27, 1914.

"Can we do it today?" the governor asked. "If the answer's no, we've got a problem."

The governor did not wait for an answer; nor did he propose any substantial curriculum or assessment initiatives.

--Jessica Portner
& Lonnie Harp

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