Education Pit Stops Along the Campaign Trail

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A longtime foe of outcomes-based education has said she was offered a job as Pennsylvania's education chief--and turned it down.

Peg Luksik, the former 2nd-grade teacher whose 1992 campaign against the state's O.B.E. program made her famous, is running for governor of Pennsylvania this year as an independent candidate.

In an interview with a small newspaper in Johnstown, Pa., early in the campaign, she said a surrogate for Tom Ridge, the Republican candidate for governor, offered her the post of "secretary of education" if she would stay out of the race.

"And I said, 'well, no, you know, bribery doesn't work too well here,'" Ms. Luksik told the paper. "So I said ~'no.'"

Political experts at the time predicted Ms. Luksik's candidacy would hurt Mr. Ridge, siphoning off hard-core conservative votes.

Mr. Ridge has denied the offer was made. Recent polls show Ms. Luksik attracting scant support.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander has been a one-man campaign machine this fall.

Mr. Alexander, much talked-about as a possible contender for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1996, has been crisscrossing the country stumping for candidates at the state and federal levels.

He has backed up some of his federal endorsements with cash. Through a political-action committee he controls as a leftover perk from his days in elected office, Mr. Alexander has funneled some $325,000 to candidates in this election cycle, according to a wire-service report.

Talk that Republicans might take control of the U.S. House of Representatives this election has led one G.O.P. education leader to explain what he would do as chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Last month, Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Goodling, the ranking Republican on the committee, outlined his vision for the future of education in a speech to the National School Boards Association.

In the prepared text of his speech, Mr. Goodling rejected what he called the "nostalgic view that at some point in the past American education was unequaled" and has since slipped.

Major change is needed, but any solutions crafted in Washington must embrace the notion of local control of schools, he said.

As a former schools superintendent and school board member, Mr. Goodling would likely make local control the hallmark of his chairmanship, said Edward R. Kealy, the director of federal programs for the N.S.B.A.

"He definitely would bring a more grounded sense of what it takes to actually implement programs in schools," Mr. Kealy said.

As adult voters prepare to go to the polls for real, millions of students will cast votes this week in mock elections across the country.

In a program sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department, Scholastic Inc. has mailed ballots to educators, asking that students vote for candidates in their states and register their opinions on several key issues.

Results will be reported before the actual election on Nov. 8 on several cable-television networks. (CNN will announce the results on Nov. 3 at 10 P.M. Eastern standard time.)

Bruce Benson, Colorado's Republican candidate for governor, touched off a small brushfire by suggesting early in the campaign that troublemakers in schools are often youngsters on welfare.

"I talk a lot about the welfare system and crime and education all being linked together," Mr. Benson reportedly said during a debate. "When you have disruptive kids, you can't teach....Nobody has any statistics, but a lot of these people are coming out of the welfare system."

The next day, a local association of welfare mothers called a press conference to prove him wrong--with statistics. They trotted out a 1991 study showing children of welfare families are suspended or expelled from school at roughly the same rate as children from poor families not on welfare.

Mr. Benson reportedly stood by his comments, saying his observations came from talking with individuals all over the state and media reports.

In this year's voter polls about election issues, crime tops the list everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except Texas, where education recently squeezed out crime as the the number-one issue in the governor's race in a poll conducted by the University of Texas at Austin.

Poll watchers said the interest in education is due in part to the state's long-standing trouble finding an equitable school-funding system. The state supreme court is poised to rule soon on the legislature's third attempt at fashioning a constitutional means of allocating state aid to schools.

George W. Bush, the Republican candidate for governor, has tapped this controversy in a television commercial attacking Gov. Ann Richards's education record.

The ad criticizes the Governor for failing to deliver a promised teacher-pay raise and slams "Robin Hood," the nickname for one of the legislature's funding schemes that shifted money from wealthy districts to poorer ones.

When Mr. Bush questioned whether education had improved under Ms. Richards, the Governor was quoted as saying: "You just work like a dog, do well, the test scores are up...the dropout rate is down, and all of a sudden you've got some jerk who's running for public office telling everybody it's all a sham."

California voters who flip their ballot-information pamphlet to the back page will get a peek at poetry by Carina Joy Bender, a 17-year-old senior at Rio Americano High School in Sacramento.

Ms. Bender's poem, "Later," won a contest sponsored by "You've Got the Power," a high school voter-education program sponsored by state agencies. The poem contrasts two potential voters at the end of Election Day: a busy young man in downtown New York who passes up his chance to vote, and an elderly South African woman who overcomes her fatigue to vote and "help the people, of today and tomorrow."

It was not patriotism that inspired her to write the poem, Ms. Bender said. Rather, her honors-English teacher made the contest an assignment for her class.

In an interview with Newsweek last week, Hillary Rodham Clinton said she is not comfortable with the notion of schools distributing condoms.

"I would much prefer that every child be given appropriate guidance and discipline so that that was never an issue," she said. "But I also think that is a problem that has to be addressed in certain parts of the country and religion have failed to do their jobs."

The First Lady's conservative critics immediately attacked her comments as a campaign ploy.

"No one doubts the sensitive political antennae that brought Bill and Hillary Clinton into office," says a statement from Gary Bauer, the president of American Renewal, a group promoting family values.

Vol. 14, Issue 09

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