NORWALK, Iowa (AP) _ The Department of Education is part of a trend toward ``bureaucratic imperialism'' and should be abolished, Republican presidential hopeful Alan Keyes told a group of Iowa educator Tuesday.

The conservative radio commentator said more decisions and financing should be placed in the hands of parents and grassroots communities and not the federal or state governments. He said he would filter a few of the departments functions into other agencies as part of a massive downsizing of the federal government, if elected.

``A little less than half of the government survives,'' he said.

Keyes was appearing before about 70 teachers and school administrators with the Professional Educators of Iowa, a nonpartisan association that opposes mandatory teacher enrollment in unions. It was part of an education-oriented day, in which he also spoke to a high school in Monroe.

Keyes said he supports school vouchers and home schooling, which he says ``helps recrystallize the role of parents in the education process.'' His support of ``Right to Work'' laws, which give employees the choice of whether to belong to a union, was popular with PEI.

Jim Hawkins, the group's director and a school teacher for 30 years, said he liked a lot of what he heard.

``He is unwavering in his ethical stance, his eloquence is very impressive,'' Hawkins said. ``Even if he does not win, he's valuable because he's like a conscience.''

Earlier in the day, Keyes focused on agriculture in an appearance before about 350 people _ mostly students _ at Monroe PCM High School.

He said there should be an alternative to the Federal Reserve Bank, tailored for farmers and based on the Biblical principal of ``seven fat years followed by seven lean years.'' Keyes said his proposed bank would have to save surplus in times when demands are met and build credit for when times are bad.