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State Journal: union man; Worth the paper?

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After two decades of exercising a major influence over state education policy as executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, Paul Hubbert has set his sights on a higher goal: the governor's mansion.

Mr. Hubbert, whose lobbying clout in the legislature is legendary, has not yet formally announced that he will try to unseat his frequent gop sparring partner, Gov. Guy Hunt, next November. But Mr. Hubbert is already busy making campaign speeches and raising money.

That has left some people in the state wondering about the exact role the aea will play in its leader's Democratic campaign.

After a speech in Huntsville recently, for example, a local reporter asked Mr. Hubbert whether some aea members might object if the union paid for a campaign fund-raising letter sent to 60,000 teachers.

Mr. Hubbert brushed the question aside with a comparison to his opponent's trips around the state. "No more so than a taxpayer would complain," he said, "about the Governor traveling in all these state cars campaigning."

But while the steering council of the union's political-action committee, a-vote, has recommended backing Mr. Hubbert, the organization's endorsement will not be formal until the results of a poll of its delegate assembly are announced at the end of the month.

In the meantime, union employees are watching their step. "Whenever I see someone, I ask them to vote for Mr. Hubbert," said Don Eddins, a union spokesman. "But we're not free to work for the campaign during working hours."

When a public-interest group released a report recently that was sharply critical of Wisconsin's schools, state Superintendent Herbert J. Grover retaliated with a stinging rebuke for both the message and the messenger.

The report, written by a Johns Hopkins University scholar and issued by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, maintained that the Badger State was inflicting an internal "brain drain" on itself by allowing its educational system to slide into mediocrity.

Arguing that Wisconsin was falling behind in standardized tests and other measures of achievement, the report called in particular for stepped-up efforts to aid the state's gifted and talented students.

"That report isn't worth the paper it's printed on," retorted Mr. Grover. "They did it because they don't want people to have confidence in our schools."

"It's a political statement by a group of right-wing businessmen," he added.--hd

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