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Ballot Box: Chiefs back Clinton; Board members, too; Union clout; Public school product

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Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas last week picked up the endorsement of 16 chief state school officers for his Presidential bid.

In a statement released by the Clinton campaign, Superintendent of Public Instruction Herbert J. Grover of Wisconsin said that "never before in Presidential-campaign history have so many chief state school officers made public their endorsement of any candidate.''

"Bill Clinton understands the problems of our schools and has a proven record of being a friend to education,'' Mr. Grover said of the Democratic candidate.

Mr. Grover was joined by the top education officials from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington State in endorsing Governor Clinton.

All but Alabama, Montana, and North Carolina have Democratic governors, and the school chiefs from those three states are Democrats who were elected separately or appointed by an elected board.

Hillary Clinton accepted the endorsement on behalf of her husband at an event in Raleigh, N.C.

A majority of school board members who responded to a query in the August issue of the National School Board Journal said they are supporting Mr. Clinton.

According to an article in the October issue of the publication, 60 percent of respondents backed the Arkansas Governor, while 40 percent said they would vote to re-elect President Bush.

That is particularly good news for Mr. Clinton, as the publication's readers picked the winners in each of the last three Presidential elections.

Written comments indicated that the deciding factor for many readers was Mr. Bush's advocacy of vouchers that would provide public aid to families that send children to private schools.

"Bush's concept of a voucher system would destroy the public schools,'' a New York school administrator wrote.

Even some readers who said they would vote for Mr. Bush said they oppose his choice plan.

Readers on each side expressed either approval or disapproval of both Mr. Clinton's record on education reform in Arkansas and Mr. Bush's education record. However, the Journal noted that board members from Mr. Clinton's home state generally lauded his efforts there.

Supporters of each candidate also said they will vote for the man they think will do a better job of improving the nation's economy.

Some Bush supporters cited the endorsements Mr. Clinton has received from the two major teachers' unions, echoing President Bush's assertions that his opponent is in thrall to the politically powerful organizations.

Data released by the Federal Election Commission indicate that the financial clout of the teachers' unions remains formidable.

During the first 18 months of the 1991-92 election cycle, a period that runs from Jan. 1, 1991, through June 30, 1992, the National Education Association donated $1,174,875 to Congressional candidates. That makes its political-action committee the nation's fourth largest, behind only the Teamsters' union and ðáã's representing trial lawyers and realtors.

In an earlier tabulation that covered donations through March 30, N.E.A.-P.A.C.'s pace lagged behind that of earlier years. An official said the PAC would catch up later in the cycle, and it apparently has.

The American Federation of Teachers came in 28th on the recent F.E.C. list, with $625,325 in donations. The A.F.T. was quicker out of the gate, posting a 29 percent gain in March from the 1989-90 election cycle.

The teachers' unions' combined contributions would edge out the Teamsters for first place.

Vice President Quayle told reporters last week that he would be "at a big disadvantage'' in a debate with Sen. Al Gore because he attended public schools rather than the elite private schools Mr. Gore studied in.

"He grew up in Washington, D.C., and he's the son of a wealthy U.S. senator,'' Mr. Quayle said at appearance in Detroit, according to the Associated Press. "He went to the most expensive private schools in Washington, D.C., and I'm the product of the public schools.''

Mr. Gore attended St. Albans, an exclusive preparatory school, and Harvard University.

Although the Vice President also hails from a wealthy family, which owns the Pulliam newspaper chain, he attended public schools in Indiana and Arizona and private DePauw University, a much less selective school than Harvard.

Mr. Quayle said later that he did not intend to denigrate public schools.

"He was having a little fun with the media elite,'' said the Vice President's spokesman, David Beckwith. "You know, they don't believe anybody from public schools in Huntington, Ind., can stay in the same ring with someone from St. Albans prep school and Harvard University.''-J.M.

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