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Kindergarten fight

A literary discussion with 5th and 6th graders earlier this month landed Colorado Gov. Roy Romer in hot water.

Mr. Romer visited Denver's Pennington Elementary School to promote academic standards. The Democratic governor, who says he devours one or two novels a week, spoke about a favorite recent read, Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres, a World War II tale of an Italian soldier who sacrifices his life to save his captain.

In his eagerness to relate the book's plot, Mr. Romer told the 10- and 11-year-old students that one of the characters had homosexual feelings.

The next day his office fielded more than 200 irate phone calls.

"It is the rage of Denver," Mr. Romer told educators and policymakers at a Milwaukee conference May 16.

"I made a mistake," he said. "I'm a very open person, and I don't talk down to kids."

But Mr. Romer said it began to dawn on him that the students might be too young to discuss homosexuality. He said he asked them if that was a topic they had talked about, and they shook their heads no.

"I caught myself," he told the audience. "I said, 'Hey, I may have overdescribed this story.'"

But he added that his error came from openness. "We've got to deal honestly with kids," he said.

South Carolina Gov. David Beasley surprised a lot of people last month by proposing a voucher program that would have given parents of kindergarten students state aid to pay tuition at private or religious schools.

"Our proposal will open up new doors of opportunity for disadvantaged families like never before," Mr. Beasley--who opposes pending legislation that would mandate all-day kindergarten in public schools--said in a written statement.

The state Senate, which had already passed the $20 million plan to phase in all-day public kindergarten, quickly rejected the Republican governor's idea.

"The governor's plan was a shock," said Elizabeth Gressette, the executive director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association.

House and Senate leaders remained at odds last week over a final kindergarten plan.

--Millicent Lawton
& Robert C. Johnston

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