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State Journal: Unwanted label; Ultimate concern

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Missouri educators have had some harsh words for Gov. John Ashcroft in recent weeks.

Among other things, critics have arraigned the Republican Governor for what they see as hypocrisy, on the grounds that he has allegedly failed to support adequate funding for the schools while claiming to be the "Education Governor."

Mr. Ashcroft, who has been resisting efforts by key lawmakers to pass a tax increase for school reforms, may be vulnerable to a charge of not being supportive enough of education.

But what may not be quite fair is to fault the Governor for not living up to a self-proclaimed title, since, as far has anyone has been able to prove, he has never described himself that way.

"I have not sought to be labeled the 'Education Governor,"' Mr. Ashcroft told reporters this month. "There are people who use that term seriously and other people who use it with less sincerity. But that's not a term which I have sought to appropriate to myself."

Mr. Ashcroft's comments followed a rally at the State Capitol at which an estimated 2,000 teachers demanded pay raises and other additional spending for education.

Speaker of the House Bob F. Griffin told teachers it was time to take the gloves off.

"Up until now, you've been too nice," said Mr. Griffin. "Come out of the school zone and into the war zone."

Gov. Tommy G. Thompson and two Wisconsin legislators are calling for changes in state law to enable an outspoken critic of the Milwaukee school system to become its new superintendent.

Howard L. Fuller, who led a push several years ago to carve out a separate, mostly black, school district in Milwaukee, now is a leading candidate to be superintendent.

Mr. Fuller's candidacy is being promoted because the Milwaukee school board has not yet been able to agree on a replacement for Superintendent Robert S. Peterkin.

That effort hit a snag, however, since state law requires school superintendents to have three years of teaching experience in a precollegiate classroom. Mr. Fuller, a former college instructor, has none.

"The Governor just finds it difficult to believe that state law prohibits anybody as qualified as Howard Fuller from being a superintendent," said Thomas Fonfara, Mr. Thompson's education aide.

"I don't think anybody is terribly concerned that creating a separate, black school district was Mr. Fuller's ultimate objective; his ultimate concern was in trying to get good schools in the inner city," Mr. Fonfara added.--hd & dv

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