Federal File

April 09, 1997 1 min read

Praise for the NEA

When retired Gen. Colin Powell spoke at the Republican National Convention last summer, he took stands on affirmative action and abortion that contradicted his party’s election-year platform.

Now, he’s getting cozy with the National Education Association, the same teachers’ union that prominent Republicans vilified throughout the election season.

Mr. Powell, who retired as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993, is praising NEA members from his perch as the chairman of the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future, scheduled for later this month.

Summit officials are recruiting corporations to expand their donations and volunteer support for schools and other agencies serving children.

In an interview in the April edition of NEA Today, the union’s monthly newspaper, Mr. Powell is asked what a teachers’ union with 2.2 million members can do to help.

“NEA is doing so much now,” responds Mr. Powell, who ruled out a 1996 run for the White House. “Teachers are already mentors. Teachers are providing a safe place for children every day. ... So NEA is firing on all eight cylinders right now.”

Not all the news was good for the union, however. The retired general said he supports experiments with tuition vouchers, an idea the union vociferously opposes.

“Now is the time to take risks to see if we can improve America’s schools,” he said.

In the funnies

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley has had one of his less-glamorous moments memorialized in a caricature from a widely read comic strip.

In speeches, Mr. Riley has joked about his stage fright that led him to vomit off stage immediately after reciting his line as a traffic light in an elementary school play.

The creator of Funky Winkerbean, a syndicated newspaper comic, drew a panel of the strip’s high school band director welcoming Mr. Riley.

Next to them stood a high school student, dressed as a traffic light, reciting the line that prompted Mr. Riley’s nausea.

The cartoon’s creator, Tom Bartiuk, gave Mr. Riley a copy of the drawing, which never appeared in newspapers, when the Music Educators National Conference presented an award to the education secretary at a meeting in Washington last month. Mr. Bartiuk is on the association’s advisory board.