John T. Benson did not lose his job as state schools chief in the recent shake-up of Wisconsin's education-policy structure, but he may soon be looking for new office space.
Lawmakers this summer signed off on Gov. Tommy G. Thompson's plan to transfer most of the responsibilities of the state education department and of Mr. Benson--an elected official--to a new agency to be headed by Gov. Thompson's own appointee.
State courts still have to rule on the constitutionality of such a power shift, but the Thompson administration already is telling the superintendent to get ready to move.
In a letter to Mr. Benson that some in Wisconsin are calling an eviction order, James Klauser, the secretary of the governor's administration department, told Mr. Benson that his office space "will be reconfigured" for the new agency and that it "will be necessary to find a new location for you and your staff."
Mr. Klauser has said that he aimed only to start a smooth transition.
But Wisconsin Attorney General James E. Doyle, who is representing Mr. Benson in the court case, says the letter was out of line.
"We have called on Secretary Klauser to stop bullying the superintendent and let the courts decide this matter," said Jim Haney, a spokesman for the attorney general.
Meanwhile, although the challenge to the legislature's shuffling of the state's education powers has been filed in a county circuit court, it is expected that the state supreme court will agree to hear the case.
In Ohio, meanwhile, workers in the state education department may not be moving, but their office walls do seem a bit shaky.
The state architect last month announced that the marble facade of the 60-year-old building that is the headquarters for the education agency and other state operations in Columbus is crumbling.
The building has been declared structurally sound, but access to it will be restricted for about two months while the stability of the facade is examined.
"So far as I know, this would not precipitate anyone moving out," said Bill Teets, a spokesman for the state's administrative-services department.
Vol. 15, Issue 01