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Published in Print: April 5, 2000, as Teacher-Quality Plan Facing Slim Odds As Kentucky Session Ends

Teacher-Quality Plan Facing Slim Odds As Kentucky Session Ends

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The condition of a Kentucky initiative to improve teacher quality slipped from critical to virtually dead last week as the state's regular legislative session ended without agreement on the measure.

After the legislation unanimously passed the House on March 28, the Kentucky Senate would not go along with the plan, which was intended to improve teacher recruitment and preparation. The proposal could have been resuscitated in the conference committee process, but negotiators from both chambers were unable to resolve their differences in time.

"The clock got it," said Sen. Vernie McGaha, a Republican.

By late last week, the plan's only hope was for parts of it to be reintroduced in the budget-approval process. As the regular session wrapped up on March 29, the Democratic-dominated House and the GOP-controlled Senate had yet to agree on a state budget, something that hadn't happened since 1994. The two chambers have been deeply divided this year over a proposal to raise telecommunications taxes.

"Your budget committee can write just about anything they want into that budget," Mr. McGaha remarked.

The teacher- quality plan resulted from more than a year's work by a task force appointed by Gov. Paul E. Patton, a Democrat. But the original legislation suffered a double whammy of heavy opposition by the Kentucky teachers' unions and the Senate's refusal to approve funding for most of its provisions.

By last week, its sponsors had scrapped the far-reaching measure and launched what turned out to be an unsuccessful bid to resurrect its least controversial provisions as amendments to separate legislation. ("Kentucky Teacher-Quality Plan Fights for Life," March 29, 2000.) The plan cannot be officially pronounced dead, however, until the state budget is settled, said Robert F. Sexton, the director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a citizens' advocacy group.

"This session has been so crazy that we've decided they've got to be safely tucked away at their homes before we make a final judgment about what's happened," he said.

Lawmakers were struggling late last week to reach a budget agreement. In the event they failed, legislators were eyeing April 11—set aside to deal with any vetoed legislation—as their next chance to do so.

Vol. 19, Issue 30, Page 21

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