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State Journal: And now no pay; Voucher slapping

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John Stephenson, who was elected Kentucky's state superintendent of public instruction shortly after the legislature stripped the post of all but menial duties, recently learned that in addition to not having a state office, phone, or stationery, he will now be without a state paycheck as well.

Kentucky voters last November agreed to formally abolish the office, whose powers were transferred to an appointed commissioner of education under the state's 1989 school-reform law.

Since his election in 1991, Mr. Stephenson has received $3,000 a year in salary, plus state retirement and insurance benefits. But after his unsuccessful attempt to have the court reinstate his standing as a constitutional officer, officials decided last month the time had come to sever Mr. Stephenson's tenure with the state.

When informed of the state's decision, Mr. Stephenson vowed to continue the unspecified duties he has initiated on his own.

His self-proclaimed duties, however, have themselves been questioned.

Mr. Stephenson was denied workers' compensation after an incident last fall in which he broke his ankle while riding a motor scooter in a state parking lot on a Saturday.

He said he was on the job at the time of the accident, having gone to an office of the state revenue Cabinet to gather official information. But he acknowledged that he had realized only after the accident that the office was closed on the weekends and was in any case not the office that handles the state revenue estimates he said he was seeking.

A state workers'-compensation claims office declared that the injury "did not arise out of and in the course of employment.''

The chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party has become the object of internal criticism after casting a vote in support of controversial school-voucher legislation that barely passed the Senate.

Sen. Gary J. LaPaille was quickly castigated by his fellow Chicago Democrats after the vote, which he defended.

"My Senate district overwhelmingly supports vouchers,'' he explained to reporters. "I am down here as an elected state senator first. I am party chairman second. That's politics.''

Other Democrats, however, said the vote was reason to question Mr. LaPaille's position as party chairman and called it "a slap in the face to minorities.''

The controversial voucher bill would provide $1,000 per child for private school tuition.

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