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State Journal: Alaska shake; Superfluit

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Gov. Walter J. Hickel of Alaska, an upset winner last November as an independent candidate, has been shaking up the state's education establishment in his first two months in office.

Mr. Hickel, 71, who also was Governor from 1966 to 1969, was elected on a promise to cut the size of the state bureaucracy.

Within two weeks of his inauguration in December, the Governor demanded the resignations of the entire state board of education, saying he wanted a "fresh start."

One of the duties of the board is to select a new state education commissioner, but its choice $5 requires the approval of the governor. The ousted board had settled on Richard S. Cross, a district superintendent from the Fairbanks area, to replace William Demmert, who left last year for Stanford University.

Governor Hickel apparently did not agree with the choice of Mr. Cross, so the selection process will begin again with the new " board, which he named this month.

One of the seven new board members is Jack E. Phelps, a clergyman and the president of the state's Private and Home Educators' Association.

Observers said Governor Hickel's appointment of Mr. Phelps was a further sign of his , interest, expressed during his campaign, in creating a . voucher system for Alaska education that would allow parents to use public funds to send their children to private 2 schools.

The Governor has not put 54 forth any formal proposal for vouchers as yet, however, according to a spokesman.

Gov. Gaston Caperton of 9 West Virginia, meanwhile, is calling for abolition of a state education position he created two years ago.

As part of a sweeping plan for reorganizing state government, Mr. Caperton in 1989 appointed a secretary of education and the arts, who was to have oversight over all state education programs and veto power over the state school

Curbing the autonomy of the state board, however, involved a constitutional change that had to be approved by the voters.

When voters rejected the referendum in September 1989, the secretary was left with little power over elementary and secondary education.

Although the secretary, Steve Haid, helped to reorganize higher-education governance, state officials decided they could do without the position after he left it last month.

Mr. Caperton did not elaborate in his State of the State Address this month on his request to abolish the post. But aides said it had become "superfluous."--mw & hd

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