Miss America Reiterates Support for Federal Program

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Miss America apparently is not about to let a mere U.S. senator call the shots.

As Shawntel Smith held court on the lawn of the Capitol last week, the recently crowned beauty queen reiterated her support for the federal school-to-work program--a position that left her at odds with Sen. James M. Inhofe, a conservative Republican from her home state of Oklahoma.

"I support all programs that help people make that transition from the classroom to the workplace," declared Ms. Smith, who has chosen school-to-work efforts as the "platform issue" she will promote during her one-year reign.

She also announced that she will serve on a federal school-to-work advisory council and that Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich had proclaimed her the initiative's "ambassador to youth."

Her pronouncements brought a note of drama to a routine ceremony: the annual presentation of the new Miss America to members of Congress, which Sen. Inhofe hosted on behalf of the Oklahoma delegation.

Mr. Inhofe would not say whether he tried to dissuade Ms. Smith from backing the federal program, which he opposes.

But his press secretary said earlier this month that Mr. Inhofe had paid a "courtesy visit" to Ms. Smith during which he aired his reasons for opposing the School-to-Work Opportunities Act. And an official of the Miss Oklahoma pageant said the senator had called him to express concern that Ms. Smith would be perceived as offering partisan support to a Clinton administration initiative. (See Education Week, Oct. 11, 1995.)

Disagreement Downplayed

Mr. Inhofe last week said only, "I support Shawntel Smith."

He also declined to discuss the school-to-work program itself during the press conference.~

Afterward, Mr. Inhofe said he opposed the program because it is ~"putting in government's hands something that is best out of the government's hands."

Ms. Smith told reporters that the senator had spoken with her to alert her to private-sector efforts, such as Junior Achievement, that are compatible with her campaign. She praised him as a gracious host and a strong supporter of her endeavors.

As Miss Oklahoma, Ms. Smith had helped promote her state's school-to-work programs.

Vol. 15, Issue 07

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