Unions Express Elation Over Edwards Win in Louisiana

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Louisiana teachers' unions last week expressed elation over the decisive gubernatorial-election victory scored by Edwin W. Edwards against David E. Duke, the former neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan leader.

The teachers' unions played a major role in the broad coalition that defeated Mr. Duke, whose campaign had attracted intensive national interest because of his past career and open appeals to white voters' resentment of minorities and the poor.

"We're overjoyed. We supported Edwin Edwards, and we worked very hard to ensure that he be elected," said Les Landon, director of public relations for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.

Mr. Edwards, a Democrat and three-term former Governor, defeated Mr. Duke, a Republican member of the state House, with 61 percent of the vote to 39 percent in the Nov. 16 run-off balloting.

One of the first education results of Mr. Edwards's victory may be a new version of Louisiana's controversial teacher-evaluation program. The unions bitterly opposed the evaluation program developed by Gov. Buddy Roemer, who finished third in nonpartisan primary voting last month. (See Education Week, Oct. 30, 1991.)

Mr. Edwards promised during his campaign to work with the unions and others to develop an evaluation program focused on helping teachers improve their performance.

Dennis Nugent, the education coordinator for Mr. Edwards's campaign, said the Governor-elect also hopes to find the money to fund a program to provide poorer school districts with more state money; broaden the taxing power of local school districts; and provide more money for preschool programs.

In addition, Mr. Nugent said, Mr. Edwards wants to direct 75 percent of the proceeds of a state lottery program scheduled to go into effect in January to education programs, without a reduction in the regular state appropriation for the schools.

The new Governor also plans to replace Superintendent of Education Wilmer S. Cody and several members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mr. Nugent indicated.

All-Out Union Effort

Both the L.F.W. and the Louisiana Association of Educators endorsed Mr. Edwards, and the L.A.E. assisted him in developing his education platform.

Officials of both unions said that the election generated more member interest than any other in state history and that their organizations worked harder than ever before on the contest.

Linda Day, the president of the L.A.E., said the union organized statewide forums on the election, operated phone banks, drove voters to the polls, sent mailings to targeted constituents, mailed information on the campaign to all school employees statewide, and contributed financially to Mr. Edwards's campaign.

The new Governor, she said, "will reinstate the dignity into this profession that literally has been stripped from us."

Mr. Landon said the L.F.T.'s appeals to teachers and others had to get beyond the apparent initial appeal of Mr. Duke's populist campaign to warn of the potential threat to the schools posed by his education platform.

"A lot of people were going to vote for David Duke because of his anti-government message," Mr. Landon said. "We needed to explain to people that, yes, taxation may be high and, yes, government may be intrusive, but look at what the man says about education."

Among other proposals, Mr. Duke advocated ability tracking in public schools and a parental-choice program to provide partial state funding for private-school tuition.

Vol. 11, Issue 13, Page 17

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