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State Journal: Not-so-fond farewells

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At least one Wisconsin lawmaker is saying good riddance to 16- and 17-year-olds who don't want to be in school.

Sen. Joseph Leean has proposed letting children as young as 16 leave school--provided they have parental permission and have either lined up full-time work or enrolled in a job-training program. The proposal goes beyond Gov. Tommy G. Thompson's call to lower the compulsory-attendance age from 18 to 17.

Mr. Leean, a Republican from Waupaca, expressed impatience with his opponents, including state schools superintendent, John T. Benson, who have said 16-year-olds are too young to be going out into the world without a diploma. In a May 10 letter to newspaper editors, the senator asked why people would be so concerned with "some very disruptive, unmotivated, and violent students" whose behavior "is stealing the educational opportunity from the majority of our kids."

"It is time for vocal support for the 95 percent or more of high school students and parents who value education," the letter said.

The legislature's joint finance committee agreed this month to adopt the proposal as part of its state budget bill.

A spokesman for the superintendent contended last week that the measure provides no mechanism for monitoring dropouts' compliance.

Some days it just seems as if Anne Fox can't win.

Ms. Fox, the Republican state superintendent in Idaho, was assailed as being too conservative when she took office in January. She has endured flak from the local press for her speeches to right-wing groups like the U.S. Militia Association in Blackfoot and her repeated efforts to reject federal Goals 2000 funding. (related story .)

But now one of her top aides has quit. The complaint this time: She's not conservative enough.

Ron Pollock resigned as the director of the state education department's school-finance division this month, telling reporters that he was "hoping for a more conservative administration" when he was hired by Ms. Fox in January.

Ms. Fox dismissed the criticism despite her recent endorsement of reform ideas promoted by the state affiliate of the liberal-leaning National Education Association. "The staff I appointed in the department believes in my concepts, including getting back to basics and traditional values in the public schools of Idaho," she said.

--Peter Schmidt & Meg Sommerfeld

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