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Bipartisan Tutors

In Utah, the common ground that politicians are always talking about turns out to be at the Douglas T. Orchard Elementary School in Salt Lake City.

The state Democratic and Republican parties have agreed to nominate 10 people each as part of a well-negotiated adopt-a-school arrangement.

But soon after the deal was announced at a Nov. 14 ceremony, partisan rivalry made its appearance: state GOP Chairman Frank Suitter proclaimed that Republicans had long supported schools and predicted that no shortage of loyalists would line up to help tutor students in reading and mathematics.

Not to be outdone, Democratic Chairman Mike Zuhl said the adopt-a-school project could be emblematic of the kind of community partnerships Democrats love.

The organizer of the event was no stranger to the statewide scene herself: Lily Eskelsen, a former president of the Utah Education Association. Ms. Eskelsen recently returned to her 6th grade teaching job at Orchard Elementary after a stint as the union chief, and, apparently, decided to bring some statehouse politicking back with her.

To make sure that the party bosses keep their word, officials said that in addition to learning the other three R's, children will also be trained to make reminder calls to the volunteers.

Tax backlash

Gov. Bill Graves of Kansas, frustrated with the complaints about property taxes expressed during the fall campaign season, recently told voters they should stop whining.

The property tax, he proclaimed, "is not the boogeyman it's made out to be."

And unless voters want the state to foot the entire tab for all government services, not much is going to change. "We're always going to have a property-tax problem," the first-term Republican said.

To add some punch to his sobering comments, Mr. Graves noted that Kansans now pay less in property taxes for public schools than before 1992, when the statewide property tax that has become the focus of political complaints was enacted.

--LONNIE HARP

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