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Cultured Babies

The latest--not to mention most creative--proposal from a governor to boost early learning won't cost a lot of money, as far as state budgets go. But Gov. Zell Miller of Georgia hopes his plan to give the gift of music to every newborn in the state will have big payoffs in the future.

Inspired by research on the brain development of young children, the Democratic governor is recommending that parents of every new baby receive a classical-music cassette or compact disc. In fact, he's already asked Yoel Levi, the conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, to suggest a few pieces of music for the recording. With about 100,000 babies being born a year in Georgia, Mr. Miller estimates the cost would be $105,000.

A study last year showed that giving piano lessons to preschoolers can develop the skills needed to excel in math and science.

To persuade skeptics of the value of his idea, Mr. Miller played Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" for members of the legislature during his Jan. 13 budget address. "Don't you feel smarter already?" the governor asked. "Smart enough to vote for this budget item, I hope."

Car Trouble

A new law has put North Carolina districts in a new line of business: cars.

The law, which went into effect Dec. 1, hands over to local school districts the cars of drivers who are arrested for driving while intoxicated and have their licenses suspended. What happens with the seized cars is left up to each district: sell them for profit or keep them for district use. But there are a few drawbacks, school officials say.

Before the cars can be sold, cases must be settled in court, and that can take anywhere from two months to a year, said Michael Mulheirn, the assistant superintendent for operations services of the 29,000-student Durham public schools. Districts are also responsible for storage and towing, and lien holders have first dibs on what they're owed before the district sees any money from a sale.

Democratic Rep. Joe Hackney, who sponsored the measure, said it is too early to tell how well the new law is working out, but "in the long run it will be profitable."

--Linda Jacobson & Adrienne D. Coles

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