State Journal: Nothing else to do; Child shields

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Even though it has no power and very little salary, the office of state superintendent of education in Kentucky apparently still looks to some like a prize worth seeking.

A dozen candidates have filed for the post, which will be contested in major-party primaries this week and in the November general election.

State reformers had been trying for years to end the elective nature of the office, arguing that making the superintendent campaign for votes only reinforced the politicization they saw as rampant in the school system.

State voters, however, repeatedly rejected constitutional amendments to make the position appointive.

So, in drafting last year's massive reform bill, lawmakers invested a new, appointed commissioner of education with full powers, while stripping the superintendent's office of authority and reducing its salary to $3,000 a year.

Some of the candidates are challenging the way the legislature redefined the superintendency. Colin Cox, a Hazard mobile-home dealer, for example, wants to restore its clout and elective status.

"I wouldn't want to just sit there and do nothing," Mr. Cox told a reporter. "They've taken an office away from the people that citizens voted to keep."

But Foster V. Jones Jr., a Louisville lawyer, wants to do away with the office entirely, arguing that it represents "taxpayers' money that doesn't need to be spent."

Other candidates say they want to turn the position into an ombudsman or clearinghouse for education.

Gilbert Wooden, a former Louisville elementary-school principal, said the job would fit nicely into his retirement plans.

"Since I had nothing else to do," Mr. Wooden said, "I thought I could be helpful."

After approving a $608.5-million education budget, Alaska lawmakers scheduled a special session for last Sunday to consider the vetoes they assumed would be coming from Gov. Walter J. Hickel.

Mr. Hickel was widely expected to veto at least part of the funding bill, which was $34 million more than he had sought.

Mr. Hickel confounded nearly everyone, however, by signing the entire measure into law.

Legislative leaders said they would have had the votes to override any vetoes.

But while acquiescing on the education budget, Governor Hickel had some harsh words for the state "education establishment," which he said "uses children as shields against public criticism in order to lobby for bigger salaries and more administrators."--hd

Vol. 10, Issue 36

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