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State Journal: Big or little dinosaurs; Hard-bottom degree

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Iowa groups representing rural schools and conservatives are mounting an effort to oust State Director of Education William L. Lepley.

Appointed in 1988, Mr. Lepley's term expires this year. If reappointed by Gov. Terry E. Branstad, he would have to be reconfirmed by the Senate this spring.

Governor Branstad has until March 15 to submit all appointments, and senators must vote by April 30.

But 17 of the 50 senators have signed a petition calling for Mr. Lepley's removal--enough to pose a threat to the two-thirds majority necessary for reconfirmation.

Two especially vocal opponents to the superintendent's reappointment are the Rural Schools of Iowa and the conservative Iowa Education Coalition.

Stan Jensen, the executive director of Rural Schools of Iowa, criticized Mr. Lepley for his lack of support for rural schools. While voicing interest in Mr. Lepley's suggestions for school consortiums and networks, Mr. Jensen criticized what he called the superintendent's support of wholesale consolidation.

"There's no advantage to making a little dinosaur into a big dinosaur,'' Mr. Jensen argued.

The Iowa Education Coalition, meanwhile, is angry with Mr. Lepley's support for state human-development and global-education curricula.

In response, Mr. Lepley described conservative opposition to his curriculum policies as "predictable.'' But he expressed disappointment about rural educators' criticism of his district-consolidation guidelines, given the need to hold down state spending.

"I am doing what Iowa needs to face the next decade,'' he said. "I'm not going to change my principles.''

Mr. Lepley said he plans to meet with senators in the next few weeks to clarify his policy positions.

The Idaho House late last month approved a bill to remove the existing requirement that the state superintendent of education, who is elected by the voters, also have an education degree and a state school-administrator's certificate.

During an earlier committee session on the measure, one state lawmaker in a position to know offered a frank assessment of the value of an education diploma.

"An education degree has about the least value of any degree they give out,'' said Representative James Stoicheff, a former teacher and principal.

"All you need to get a master's degree in education is glazed eyes, stuffed ears, and a hard bottom,'' Mr. Stoicheff added.--S.K.G. & H.D.

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