Precollegiate-Education Issues Are Prominent In Gubernatorial Campaigns in 3 States

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Precollegiate education has emerged as a major campaign issue in the three states holding gubernatorial elections next month, with all candidates having developed highly detailed platforms on school matters.

The following are summaries of the state of education in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi, followed by profiles of the candidates and their platforms. The material was compiled by Associate Editor Tom Mirga.


Educators generally agree that next month's gubernatorial election, combined with gloomy economic forecasts and the prospect of no new taxes, could decide the fate of an ambitious school-reform effort begun in 1985.

Approved during a special summer session called by the outgoing governor, Martha Layne Collins, the two-year-old reform plan provided pay raises and eased noninstructional duties for teachers, reduced class sizes in elementary grades, and increased state aid to reduce funding disparities among districts.

Wallace G. Wilkinson, the front-runner in the gubernatorial race in this heavily Democratic state, has stated that he is committed only to the reform program that he is promoting.

Budget officials also project that state revenues will fall almost $120 million short of the amount needed to fully fund the reform program in the upcoming 1989-90 biennium.

A third factor also could affect reform efforts: A state trial judge has promised to hand down his decision before the end of this year in a school-finance suit filed against the state by 66 property-poor districts.


Wallace G.

Wilkinson (D)


Education platform highlights

Not committed to reforms enacted in 1985.

Opposes new taxes and tax increases.

Supports a state lottery with all revenues earmarked for education.

Backs a new $70-million program to provide financial rewards to superior schools.

Supports creation of 15 "benchmark school" demonstration projects.

Supports repeal of laws and regulations that stifle innovation at the local level.

Opposes repeal of law that limits property-tax increases to 4 percent per year.

Supports establishment of full-time kindergarten programs.

John Harper (R)

State Representative;


Education platform highlights

Backs continued support for reforms enacted in 1985.

Pledges to protect school-aid budget from potential future reductions.

Supports class-size reductions in all grades.

Supports efforts to reduce dropout rate.

Supports competency testing for prospective teachers.

Promises to ensure that all eligible children have access to Head Start programs.


Unfortunately for Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, "les bons temps n'ont pas roule" (translation: "the good times have not rolled") in Louisiana as he promised they would in his 1983 campaign pledge, narrowing his chances for re-election next month.

Falling oil prices reduced tax revenues severely in 1986, requiring lawmakers and Mr. Edwards to cut $43 million from the minimum-foundation program for schools. The funds were restored in the fiscal 1987 budget.

Continued weakness in the state's economy forced the Governor this past July to cut fiscal 1988 spending by 5 percent in all programs except education.

Louisiana's procedure for electing its governor differs from that of other states. Under its "open primary" system, all five candidates were to compete in an election on Oct. 24; the two top finishers, regardless of party affiliation, will move on to a runoff on Nov. 21 if, as expected, no single candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.

A statewide poll conducted by a Louisiana business group on Oct. 15 showed that the incumbent Governor would have lost to any one of his four opponents in head-to-head competition if the election had been held that day.


Edwin W. Edwards (D) Governor,



Education platform highlights

Supports a state lottery, with 75 percent of revenues earmarked for education.

Proposes a new "Dollars for Scholars" program. High-school students with A averages would receive $500; those with B's, $400; and those with C's, $300. Estimated annual cost, $50 million.

Backs lower pupil-teacher ratios in all grades.

Pledges to raise teacher salaries to the national average.

Pledges to increase spending for textbooks and equipment.

W.J. "Billy"

Tauzin 2nd (D)

U.S. Representative

Education platform highlights

Supports switch from elective to appointive state school superintendency.

Pledges to fully fund minimum-foundation, special-education, and gifted-and-talented programs.

Supports raising teacher salaries to the national average.

Backs increased spending for "at risk" children.

Supports raising property-tax ceilings to finance regional improvement programs.

Supports higher student promotion, graduation standards.

James H.

Brown Jr. (D)



of State

Education platform highlights

Supports mandatory kindergarten for 5-year-olds and voluntary preschool programs, with special emphasis on "at risk" children.

Supports raising teacher pay to the national average.

Suggests improving teacher accountability through peer review.

Says aid to districts can be increased by cutting state administrative costs.

Backs revision of tax code to permit more local spending.

Supports mandatory drug education and expanded efforts to lower teen-age pregnancy rate.

Robert L.

Livingston (R)

U.S. Representative

Education platform highlights

Supports creation of career ladder for teachers. Estimated $200-million cost would be met by lowering state administrative costs.

Backs state support for locally developed pilot programs.

Calls for repeal of kindergarten-attendance requirement. At the same time, would require districts to offer preschool and kindergarten programs and strongly encourage attendance.

Backs full college scholarships for top high-school graduates who agree to major in education, teach in state for four years.

Supports reducing teachers' paperwork burden.

Backs revision of tax code to permit more local spending.

Charles E. "Buddy"

Roemer 3rd (D)

U.S. Representative

Education platform highlights

Supports raising aid to districts by cutting state administrative costs.

Supports raising teachers' salaries to the national average.

Proposes statewide teacher-evaluation system to identify those in need of additional training.

Backs reduction in class sizes for kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Supports mandatory attendance in kindergarten.

Encourages districts to increase their participation in state's early-childhood education programs.


Precollegiate education is all but certain to retain its preferred status among state programs regardless of the outcome of next month's election.

And there is little doubt about that in any event. Raymond Mabus Jr., the Democratic candidate, is a decided favorite in the race. Mississippians have not elected a Republican governor since Adelbert Ames, a carpetbagger from Maine, left office in 1876.

As an aide to former Gov. William F. Winter, Mr. Mabus helped shape and pass the landmark education-reform act approved in a special legislative session in December 1982. The reform program--which has become a talisman for economic development in the state--featured salary increases for teachers in the form of merit pay and the establishment of mandatory kindergarten programs.

Lawmakers and the outgoing governor, Bill Allain, who chose not to run for a second term, have increased spending for schools during the past four years despite revenue shortfalls that forced cuts in other programs.


Raymond Mabus Jr. (D)

Mississippi State Auditor

Education platform highlights

Pledges to fund education programs to the full amount mandated by the state constitution. Would raise needed revenue by eliminating duplicative state services.

Recommends requiring legislature to approve state school aid during initial week of its sessions.

Supports increasing aid to less affluent districts without penalizing higher-spending districts.

Supports raising teacher salaries to the average for Southeast states.

Supports increasing per-pupil spending for textbooks.

Jack Reed (R)


chairman state

board of education,

1984-spring 1987

Education platform highlights

Backs continued funding for reforms adopted in 1982.

Calls for raising teacher salaries, benefits to "competitive" levels over next five years.

Pledges to install air conditioning in all schools by 1992.

Would reduce paperwork burden on teachers by an executive order.

Supports voter approval of bond issues by simple-majority vote; two-thirds majority now required.

Backs increased funding for new textbooks, equipment.

Vol. 07, Issue 08

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