Appointed Board a Loser in Texas; Schools Win Lottery Vote in Ohio

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Voter reaction to the few school-related issues on state ballots was mixed in last week's off-year election.

Governors-elect in Kentucky and Mississippi, meanwhile, promised to keep education issues at the top of their state's agendas.

Two bond issues for education were approved in Maine, but another school-funding measure went down to defeat in Washington State.

In Virginia, strong opposition from church groups and top elected officials failed to deter voters from endorsing a state lottery. And in Ohio, voters agreed that funds from that state's existing lottery should be earmarked for education, but officials warned that the new law would not result in more money for schools.

Texas State Board

Voters in Texas narrowly defeated an attempt to retain that state's appointed board of education, a proposal backed by legislative leaders, Gov. William P. Clements Jr., and H. Ross Perot, the computer magnate who championed the state's 1984 school-reform law.

Supporters of the proposal waged a high-powered campaign to convince voters that the current law, which allows the governor to appoint all 15 members of the state board, is vital to the future of the reform effort.

Until 1985, Texas had an elected board. Mr. Perot and other reformers, however, challenged that system, saying it resulted in partisan infighting. In a compromise, the legislature agreed to change to an appointed board for a trial period, but then to put the issue on the ballot.

The pro-appointment coalition, Texans for Quality Education, spent more than $1 million but won only 47 percent of the vote, according to Annette Kootes, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, which opposed the measure.

The tsta, along with nearly all of the state's major education groups, advocated a return to an electoral system.

Democratic Victories

Mississippi voters, meanwhile, overwhelmingly agreed to delete a provision of the state constitution that gave legislators the option of closing the state's public-education system. The provision, adopted in 1954, was part of the state's policy of resistance to school desegregation.

In Mississippi's gubernatorial race, Raymond Mabus Jr., the Democratic candidate, rode into office on a wave of support from black voters and from the powerful Mississippi Association of Educators.

Mr. Mabus, who has promised to raise teacher salaries, survived a surprisingly strong challenge from Jack Reed, a Republican businessman and former chairman of the state board of education. Mississippi has not elected a Republican governor since Reconstruction.

In Kentucky, Wallace G. Wilkinson, a Democrat, rode his dark-horse candidacy into the governor's mansion. Mr. Wilkinson, who was running for his first elective office, opposes tax increases and favors a state lottery.

Kentucky voters also elected John Brock, a Democrat and a district superintendent, as the state's new superintendent of schools. Mr. Brock has advocated increased autonomy for local officials and voluntary prayer in public schools.

Other Results

Education groups in Washington State were big losers as voters rejected a proposal for a statewide property tax to fund school-construction and repair needs. The measure was defeated by a nearly two-to-one margin.

In Maine, voters were more sympathetic, approving a total of $11 million in bond issues to pay for school buses and asbestos-removal efforts.

School-board members in Scottsbluff, Neb., survived a recall campaign mounted by opponents of recent property-tax increases in the district. (See Education Week, Oct. 21, 1987.) The board's six members all won by comfortable margins.

In New Jersey, however, an 11th-hour campaign appearance by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett was not enough to salvage the election hopes of Assemblyman Frank J. Gargiulo, a Republican.

Mr. Gargiulo, a co-sponsor of Gov. Thomas H. Kean's ill-fated "academic bankruptcy" measure, was targeted for defeat by the New Jersey Education Association. Governor Kean had asked Secretary Bennett to make a last-minute speech in Mr. Gargiulo's district.

Vol. 07, Issue 10

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