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Union Flunks Congress

The nation's largest teachers' union has handed out failing grades to every Republican in Congress.

The National Education Association's analysis of voting in the 104th Congress rates most Republicans below 10 percent on their adherence to the NEA position on key issues. No gop members who served both years of the current Congress scored higher than 50 percent. (Sen. Sheila Frahm, R-Kan., rated 100 percent for voting the NEA's way on the only vote the union analyzed during her four-month tenure as the replacement for former Sen. Bob Dole.)

"This was not a good Congress to measure whether Republicans are pro-education," said Mary Elizabeth Teasley, the NEA's government-relations director. "It was very, very partisan."

But two GOP members who fought to protect education from cuts last year and give it increases this year say the NEA scorecard gives them a bad rap.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania supported the union's position 39 percent of the time, according to the analysis.

Mr. Specter won the NEA's plaudits for votes to increase Medicare spending, give schools competitive phone rates, and support a federal ban on guns on school property. He also got approval for co-authoring an amendment that pumped $2.7 billion into Department of Education programs in fiscal 1996, wiping out most of the cuts the House had proposed.

But he did not get any credit from the NEA for his work as the chairman of a subcommittee that sets funding for school programs. In that role, he continually pushed Senate leaders to find more money for schools.

As for the House, Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del., is in a similar spot. He earned points from the NEA by opposing GOP leaders in two votes proposing more than $3 billion in education cuts. But his effort to organize Republican moderates to vote against the cut received no notice.

"It's disappointing to see these efforts receive little weight," said Mark Leonard, Mr. Castle's spokesman.

--DAVID J. HOFF federal@epe.org

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