"The creation of the center is definitely an indication of the NEA's intention to escalate our efforts to restructure schools,'' says Gary Watts, senior director of the center and the union's former executive director for professional and organizational development.
Sharon Robinson, the center's director, says it will focus on identifying and publicizing "teacher-tested'' knowledge "that needs to be included in the policy debate.''
An Unusual Alliance
The American Federation of Teachers and nine other labor unions have formed an unusual alliance with some of the nation's largest businesses in an effort aimed, in part, at bringing about some form of national health insurance.
The National Leadership Coalition for Health Care Reform, which held its first meeting in March, involves such companies as American Telephone & Telegraph, Du Pont, and the Marriott Corporation.
Rising health-care costs and the growing pool of Americans--especially children--who have no health insurance have been of increasing concern to several groups in recent years. The new coalition is significant, however, because it is the first attempt by large corporations and labor organizations to jointly formulate a possible solution.
The issue of rising health-care costs played a role in teacher strikes last fall in Sacramento, Calif.; Upper St. Clair, Pa.; East St. Louis, Ill.; and Great Falls, Mont.
Like the AFT, the National Education Association has long advocated national health insurance but was not invited to join the new coalition, according to an NEA spokesman.
As part of a major federal crackdown on alleged child-labor-law violators, more than 500 investigators for the Labor Department in March surprised thousands of businesses nationwide during a three-day sweep.
The strike force found 7,000 minors allegedly working under conditions prohibited by the Fair Labor Standards Act, and it initiated more than 3,400 formal investigations.
Most of the alleged violations involved 14- and 15-year-olds working more hours or later hours than permitted by law. About 900 16- and 17-yearolds were found employed in hazardous jobs.
Educators have long complained about students' being too tired to learn after working late on school nights. Under the law, 14- and 15-year-olds are allowed to work only three hours a day when school is in session and a maximum of 18 hours during a fiveday school week. They also may work only between 7 A.M. and 7 P.M.