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State Journal: Alaskan Buy-out; Texas shuffle

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What's the price of power? In Alaska, it's about $120,000.

That's what the new administration of Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles is spending to get rid of the current commissioner of education, Gerald Covey, who was appointed under Gov. Walter J. Hickel.

The former state board of education, all appointees of Mr. Hickel, an independent, had signed a five-year $84,000-a-year contract with Mr. Covey that was set to expire on July 16, 1996.

After the election, Governor Knowles asked for the resignations of all but one cabinet member, but Mr. Covey wanted to serve out his term.

Enter the deal-makers. Mr. Covey last week was to begin a 17-month job as an associate professor of education administration at the University of Alaska Southeast. He will receive a lump payment of $40,000, a $73,000 salary, and up to $6,200 in moving expenses. Had he stayed out his term as education commissioner, Mr. Covey would have received about $120,000 in salary and benefits.

To avoid future buy-outs, Governor Knowles has introduced legislation that specifies that the board cannot hire education commissioners and that a commissioner serves at the governor's pleasure.

Mr. Knowles recently appointed a new state board, which will forward a list of commissioner candidates for his approval.

Shortly after Gov. George W. Bush of Texas was elected in November, after making a campaign theme of slamming the Texas Education Agency for being too dictatorial and too big, Lionel (Skip) Meno learned he was on the way out after four years as its leader.

It appears, however, that the Governor's critical views have not scared off potential chiefs. Nine finalists were named last month, and eight are still in contention.

Robert Schiller, the Michigan superintendent, is a candidate, as are Alan Morgan, the New Mexico superintendent, and Thomas C. Boysen, who will step down this summer as Kentucky's schools chief.

The Texas state board will also consider Lois Harrison-Jones, a former Dallas administrator whose contract as Boston superintendent was not renewed earlier this month, and four local Texas superintendents.

The board was planning to submit its choice to Mr. Bush this week. He will eventually forward his nomination for the $138,000-a-year job to the Texas Senate.

--Lynn Schnaiberg & Lonnie Harp

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