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State Journal: Union withholding; Going to war

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The Washington Education Association is causing a stir by withholding its endorsement of an education-reform package developed by Gov. Booth Gardner.

Though the reforms were approved by most of the outgoing Governor's educational task force last week, officials from the 57,000-member teachers' union abstained from voting and were scheduled to meet last weekend to discuss the plan.

However, the Governor presented the report to the legislature without the votes of the W.E.A. representatives on the council, according to Steve Nielson, the council's executive director.

"What's not in the report is the biggest issue with the W.E.A.,'' said Carla Nuxoll, the president of the union.

Though teachers praised the inclusion of planning time for educators, the package did not address class size, state spending per pupil, and teacher salaries, Ms. Nuxoll said.

"That's a major disappointment,'' she commented. "I don't know how they are going to try to do [the reforms] in such an atmosphere.''

Teachers are also worried that the package would be adopted at the expense of school employees. Ms. Nuxoll said she feared the state would "do this in lieu of improving teachers' salaries and benefits.''

Mr. Nielson said the council has no plans to revise the bulk of the package.

But he acknowledged that when Governor-elect Mike Lowry takes office this week, "he might want to put his own twist'' on the reforms.

The frequently uneasy relationship between governors and teachers' unions is making waves in other states as well.

The head of the Nevada State Education Association, for example, has issued a call to arms against Gov. Bob Miller over a plan being considered by state officials to cut support for education.

"We are going to have to go to war with the Governor,'' John Cummings said in a speech last month.

The proposed cuts would "destroy education in this state,'' the union director added. "We will end up pitting K-12 against higher education--brother against brother.''

In Louisiana, on the other hand, Gov. Edwin W. Edwards is getting heat from his predecessor for being too close to the teachers' unions.

"Powerful groups always have more invested in the status quo than they do in change,'' former Gov. Buddy Roemer said last month.

As Governor, Mr. Roemer clashed bitterly with the unions over his proposal for a teacher-evaluation system.--J.R. & H.D.

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