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The new chairman of the House education committee in Kansas has only a high school diploma on his wall.

Bill Mason, a Republican who is a successful businessman, said his lack of a formal education left him with some reservations when Tim Shallenburger, the speaker of the state House, tapped him for the job.

But Mr. Shallenburger said that a lack of ties to the education lobby and a strong background in management are important assets for the committee chairman in a state where school finance is a contentious issue.

Mr. Mason said he will focus on ideas that he believes will make a difference in the classroom, including drafting academic standards, creating charter schools, and redrawing school district boundaries.

"I don't hear all that much about the child," he said.

As for his own story, Mr. Mason said he was too preoccupied 43 years ago with thoughts of the girl who later became his wife and his prospects of getting a job to even consider college.

Teenage vandals in the Granite State could be subjected to public spanking under a bill being considered in the New Hampshire House.

The bill's sponsors, Rep. Richard Kennedy and Rep. Phillip Cobbin, both Republicans, were apparently motivated by their frustration with graffiti in the legislature's parking garage.

The final blow came when vandals defaced a statue of Daniel Webster with spray paint.

Under the proposal, juvenile vandals ages 12 to 17 could be spanked on their bare bottoms by a local sheriff, with the number of swats set by a judge. The punishment would be announced in newspapers.

Opponents argue that this would be an ineffective deterrent, and are concerned that "some people might see it as a badge of honor, to prove how macho you were that you had done something to deserve a spanking," said Rep. Vivian Clark, the Republican who chairs the subcommittee considering the bill.

Minority Leader Rick A. Trombly, a Democrat, suggested an amendment that would have called for the same bare-buttocks punishment for legislators who run afoul of the ethics code.

--Peter West & Meg Sommerfeld

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