State Journal: Put up or shut up; Parting shot; Sue us

December 11, 1991 2 min read

Sixty minutes may make all the difference for Gov. Ned McWherter of Tennessee in his effort to pass his tax- and school-reform package, which has been bottled up in the legislature for nearly a year.

Mr. McWherter announced late last month that he would call lawmakers into a special session to consider the reform plan at 11 A.M. on Jan. 14--one hour before the legislature was scheduled to begin its regular 1992 session.

The Governor’s action effectively pre-empts the legislative agenda and prevents lawmakers from tackling their other business until they come to a decision on his proposal.

“There’s a very simple old saying in my part of the country, ‘It’s time to put up or shut up,’ and that just about summarizes our position,” Mr. McWherter said at a press conference.

Gov. Wallace G. Wilkinson of Kentucky, who helped enact that state’s landmark school-reform law, recently made some sharp criticisms of the man chiefly responsible for putting the law into practice.

Mr. Wilkinson, who is leaving office early next year, used an interview on educational television to blast Commissioner of Education Thomas C. Boysen for failing to make radical enough changes in the state education department, as the law allowed him to do.

“I thought more faces in the Department of Education needed to be changed,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “We simply took the same people and changed their addresses and paid them more money.”

“I hope we don’t have a regathering of the establishment over there,” the Governor added.

Virginia state officials recently took the unusual step of asking to be sued, more accurately, asking for the papers formally telling them they are being hauled into court.

A coalition of low-wealth districts has filed a finance-equity suit against the state, but requested that the defendants not be served with the requisite documents. The plaintiffs say they want to hold off the final step in order to put pressure on the legislature to approve more school funding next year.

But observers say Gov. L. Douglas Wilder wants the suit to go forward, thus enabling him to sidestep the finance issue on the grounds that it is being litigated.

Three top state officials last month went before a supervised circuit-court judge to ask him to transmit the papers.

“You’re here to accept service?” the judge was quoted as asking with a laugh.

“They want to be sued,” the judge added. “I’ve never had a situation like this."--H.D.

A version of this article appeared in the December 11, 1991 edition of Education Week as State Journal: Put up or shut up; Parting shot; Sue us