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Settling issues

A comment by Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma that Tulsa schools Superintendent John Thompson is settling for mediocrity in his 43,200-student district has sparked an angry response by a dozen leaders of neighboring districts.

"Continued progress would be better served in an environment with high expectations, coupled with support and encouragement rather than negative attacks based on inaccurate data," the superintendents and the head of the state's school administrators group wrote in a defense of their colleague.

Mr. Keating, a Republican who is running for re-election, made his remarks at a recent meeting with the editorial board of the Daily Oklahoman. Dan Mahoney, his spokesman, said the comments were blown out of proportion, but that the governor, who is from Tulsa and whose wife and children attended school there, wasn't backing down.

The administrators had challenged the governor's claim that the ACT scores for the state's largest district had declined.

Mr. Mahoney said that Tulsa's scores remained flat over the past two years but were down over a longer period and remained below the national average.

He suggested politics motivated the signers, but Jerry W. Hill, head of the Broken Arrow schools, fired back that the governor's remarks were political.

Ante up?

Executives of seven Iowa casinos have backed a proposal that would route an estimated $160 million a year in state gaming taxes from the blackjack tables to the public schools.

In the past, tax revenues from gambling have been split between the state's general fund and a fund for state infrastructure projects, such as repair of the state Capitol and construction for the state university system.

The state should now earmark the money specifically for public school repairs and construction, said Robert Farinella, the president of the Gaming Association of Iowa.

"We have intentionally stayed out of the debate on how the state allocates tax dollars generated from gambling," he said. "On the issue of fixing our schools, we cannot and should not stay silent."

But legislators say the casinos are driven by self-preservation, not devotion to schools.

Speaker of the House Ron J. Corbett, a Republican, noted that casinos and the gaming industry have been "under assault" in the legislature. He accused them of "trying to wrap themselves in the cloak of public education."

--Andrew Trotter & Jessica L. Sandham

Vol. 18, Issue 9, Page 20

Published in Print: October 28, 1998, as State Journal

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