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The Maryland State Teachers Association is using the Major League Baseball strike to drive home a point with state lawmakers.

With replacement players set to take the field as the season begins this week, teachers across the state are distributing mock baseball cards featuring portraits of state senators and delegates, with biographical information on the back. Each of the 188 members will receive a set of cards with his own likeness, which the lawmakers can trade among themselves to obtain a complete set.

The gimmick is meant to spur communication between legislators, said Roger Kuhn,the M.S.T.A.'s spokesman, and to promote the union's message. Each card carries the M.S.T.A.'s slogan: "We make our schools work."

"These cards are gentle reminders that teachers are not replacement players," said Mr. Kuhn, who added: "In order to get World-Series-class schools, it takes the support of teachers."

The union plans to issue a scorecard on each legislator's voting record on education next month.

Teacher clout

Citing the political clout of New Mexico's teachers' unions, Sen. L. Skip Vernon recently tried to squash a bill that would allow public school teachers and college professors to serve in the legislature.

"The unions control the Democratic Party and the legislature in New Mexico," Mr. Vernon, a Republican who represents part of Albuquerque, said in an interview last week. "Their voice is there already, and anybody who's been up there knows it. I don't want them voting on their own retirement benefits or salaries."

But Democrats control both chambers of the legislature, and the bill passed in the session's final days.

It would codify a 1988 state appeals-court ruling in a case brought by the state's National Education Association affiliate to challenge an opinion by the state's attorney general that teachers were ineligible to serve.

According to a spokesman,the union spent big bucks towin the case. "They allow lawyers to serve in the legislature; [the opportunity] shouldn't be denied to anyone," Steven J. Lemken said.

The bill faces an uncertain future in the hands of Republican Gov. Gary E. Johnson, who just emerged from a bruising battle with the teachers' unions over the education budget.

--Jessica Portner & Lynn Schnaiberg

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