State Journal: Buddy Roemer's blues; Sooner smoke-out
Gov. Buddy Roemer of Louisiana last month unveiled an ambitious state effort to use computers to teach reading.
Under the proposal, Louisiana would become the first state to implement the "Writing to Read" software program, which is marketed by the International Business Machines Corporation, in each elementary school.
But the plan to bring "Big Blue" to every bayou has received a mostly skeptical reaction in the state so far.
Critics have attacked Mr. Roemer for focusing exclusively on ibm's product, and questioned whether school districts would be able to afford the operating costs of the program, which one analyst put at $100 million over five years.
Mr. Roemer responded late last month by saying that districts would have some leeway to choose equipment and software, provided their decisions were in harmony with state plans.
"I want to caution everybody that choice does not mean, 'Here's a pot of money and you spend it like you want to,"' he added.
Mr. Roemer, who wants $15 million in state money for the program, and an equal amount from private sources, also agreed to drop his request from an omnibus spending bill. Instead, he had the proposal introduced as a separate measure.
When an Oklahoma anti-tax group announced late last month that it would not lead a drive against a newly enacted school-reform and tax-increase bill, no one was more disappointed than a lawmaker who had cast a crucial vote to enable the measure to become law.
Leaders of Stop Taxing Our People said they were unable to raise enough money to mount a petition drive for a voter referendum on the law, which calls for $230 million in tax hikes.
That decision angered Senator Frank Shurden, who was one of a small group of Democrats who came under heavy pressure from party leaders to help provide the two-thirds majority needed to attach an emergency clause making the bill effective immediately.
One reason he finally voted for the clause, Senator Shurden said, was that stop leaders had assured him they would lead the fight for a referendum, so that state voters would be able to make the ultimate decision on the fate of the tax increases.
Apparently, others in the state felt the same way, because stop leaders last week switched course and announced that they would make an effort to round up the 94,000 signatures needed to put a referendum on the bill on the November ballot.
"We kind of smoked them out," said Senator Shurden.--hd