State Journal: Bee stings; Night school?; No vouchers

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Word that Kentucky's annual spelling bee is in jeopardy in the name of education reform caused a swarm of angry reaction from across the state last month, leaving the event's former sponsors and state officials mired in a spirited i-m-b-r-o-g-l-i-o.

In announcing the decision, officials from The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville and the Kentucky Education Association said the event's emphasis on rote memorization and competition contradicted the sprit of the state's school-reform law.

"Rote memorization is a mental discipline. It is a mental gymnastic,'' the publisher of a Louisville business newspaper wrote.

He and other editorial writers and columnists also decried excessive concern about putting children under pressure.

"As horrible a thought as it might be to some, we all need to lose a few spelling bees in our lives,'' wrote a columnist in Owensboro.

The state Farm Bureau has announced that it may host a spelling tournament.

Meanwhile, Thomas C. Boysen, the state education commissioner, suggested a writing bee that would include essays, poetry, and short stories.

The news release's headline read: "Boysen Proposes Statewide Writing Bee; Endorses Competition.''

New Jersey education officials last month attempted a 2 A.M. raid on the files of the Newark school board, but were foiled by a locked door.

The state has been investigating the Newark district, a process that is expected to lead to a state takeover.

State officials told The New York Times that a district worker had told them files were being removed from the board's office, and the nocturnal sortie was mounted in an effort to avoid a confrontation.

District officials turned over the files the next day.

Gov. Ann W. Richards of Texas is opposed to vouchers for private schools after all.

Ms. Richards told reporters in November that she was "completely open'' to the idea of including private schools in a choice program. But in interviews last month, she said she would support choice only within the public schools.

A spokesman for Ms. Richards said she had studied the issue and decided against private school vouchers.

"She didn't say she supported it,'' he said. "She said she'd take a look at it and she did.''--LONNIE HARP & JULIE A. MILLER

Vol. 13, Issue 16

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