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State Journal: Connections in high places; Martin's movement

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The Michigan Education Association has hired the lobbying firm of Gary Owen, the recently retired state House Speaker, in an effort to breathe new life into a moribund school-finance-reform effort.

According to Beverly Wolkow, the mea's executive director, the union hopes that by using his "significant contacts in the business community," Mr. Owen can build the coalition that will be needed to win voter backing for a constitutional amendment to raise sales taxes to support schools.

Several finance-reform bills have gone down in flames in the legislature during the past two years, the most recent one in March. Politicians and interest groups have been at loggerheads over whether to raise the current 4-cent sales tax by one penny or two.

Edgar Harden, a former president of Michigan State University who co-chaired a state school-finance task force in 1987, held a series of meetings in recent weeks with representatives of the legislature, the governor, and business and education groups in an effort to revive the reform effort. The ad hoc group disbanded last week after failing to reach a compromise.

In a related development, the mea told Gov. James J. Blanchard last week that it would not raise funds on behalf of his 1990 re-election campaign until the finance issue is resolved.

North Carolina's Republican governor has launched a campaign to win backing for his plan to link a proposed 1-cent sales-tax hike to statewide implementation of a career-ladder program for teachers.

This month, Gov. James Martin's election-campaign committee mailed 30,000 letters to contributors explaining the Governor's proposal and urging them to press their senators and representatives to get on board.

The mailing contained a reprint of a memo from Mr. Martin to Bob Bradshaw, the election-campaign chairman, that read: "Please get out the word to our friends, and ask them to contact their legislators right away to support this vital education package."

In a related development, 28 school-district superintendents appeared with the Governor at an April 5 press conference to praise his proposal. The career-ladder plan is vehemently opposed by the North Carolina Association of Educators.

The Governor said that he and the superintendents who joined him agree that the best way "to improve the professional character of the teaching profession ... is to provide better pay for better teachers."--tm

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