Two days after this year's votes were counted, Virginia's 1997 race for governor seemed to begin in earnest, when James S. Gilmore III, the state attorney general and the early Republican favorite for the top job, proposed a plan to provide millions of dollars in college scholarships to high school students.
The proposed New Century Scholars program, which would require approval by the legislature, would provide $2,000 in state aid to students who maintain a B average in high school, perform well on standardized tests, and attend a public or private college or university in Virginia. Students with suspensions or disciplinary problems on their records would not be eligible.
Mr. Gilmore's proposal is further testimony to the political draw of scholarships--a hallmark of Democratic Gov. Zell Miller's tenure in Georgia and an idea that President Clinton lifted for his own re-election campaign.
The new wrinkle in the awards Mr. Gilmore is proposing would be their link to student performance on new state Standards of Learning tests, set to start in 1998.
"Virginia's parents are working and planning today for their children's college education, and we in state government should be doing the same thing," said Mr. Gilmore, who is quickly out of the gate in flashing plans of his own.
Parties in the Arkansas school finance lawsuit may have to wait a while to learn whether the state's new funding system passes constitutional muster.
Pulaski County Chancellor Annabelle Clinton Imber ruled earlier this month that she will not have time to decide the issue herself.
Judge Imber found the system unconstitutional in 1994, leading state lawmakers to pass a revamped financing system that voters approved this month.
But time is short for the judge following the Nov. 5 elections.
She was unopposed in her bid for a seat on the state supreme court, and after looking over the witness list for the school finance case, she said it cannot fit in the 57 courtroom hours she could offer.
After Jan. 1, the case will fall to Judge Imber's successor.
– JESSICA PORTNER & LONNIE HARP
Vol. 16, Issue 12