Published Online: April 2, 1997

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History lesson

The trouble with some Florida students is that they don't know much about history, a state lawmaker recently explained to his colleagues during a House debate on academic standards.

"There are many students," Rep. Tom Feeney said last month, "who could not identify Thomas Paine as the man who said, 'Give me liberty or give me death.'"

Whoops. He probably meant to say Patrick Henry, who delivered the speech crying out for liberty at the Virginia Convention in Richmond on March 23, 1775.

Mr. Feeney's quibbling colleagues followed up the blunder with a series of hoots and one-liners.

Acknowledging the slip-up, Mr. Feeney sheepishly added: "And one legislator."

"If we have time, we'll get an amendment to post some of those documents in your office," chided Rep. Lois J. Frankel.

The House was preparing for a vote on an academic-standards bill, which would require that students have a C average and take algebra to graduate. Lawmakers were trying to avoid loading the bill with amendments, such as the school prayer provision that led Gov. Lawton Chiles to reject a standards bill last year. ("Fla. Lawmakers at Odds Over Tax Plan for Schools," March 19, 1997.)

This time around, House members were deadlocked over an "American heritage" amendment, which would encourage teachers to post historical documents, such as the writings of presidents and Supreme Court decisions, in their classrooms. Some lawmakers said some of the material could expose children to racist or offensive matter.

The Senate passed the standards bill earlier this session.

Legislative glitch

Thanks to the recent correction of a legislative glitch by Georgia lawmakers, school officials awaiting construction dollars won't be left saying, "Show me the money."

This past November, voters around the state approved a 1 percent sales tax for school construction. But last month, lawmakers discovered what could have been a disastrous oversight--the state department of revenue was not legally empowered to collect the taxes. Rep. Steve Stancil acted quickly to amend a related bill, enabling the department to collect the money, and the Senate passed the measure March 21. It awaits the governor's signature.

--KERRY A. WHITE & JESSICA L. SANDHAM

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