Education

Idea of Citizen’s Lobby Is Weighed by Governors

By Thomas Toch — September 05, 1984 2 min read
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Two governors, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Bruce E. Babbitt of Arizona, are exploring the possibility of founding a national citizens’ lobby that would work “to keep education reform on the front burner,” according to their spokesmen.

“They have met several times to discuss the creation of an organization [to provide national leadership in education] and they want to get it off the ground this fall,” said James West, an aide to Governor Babbitt.

Mr. Babbitt, a Democrat, and Mr. Alexander, a Republican, have included a small number of educators in the planning of the proposed organization, Mr. West said. These include Chester E. Finn Jr., a professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University who worked closely with Governor Alexander on the development of Tennessee’s highly publicized education-reform plan.

“The idea is to build and hold national public support for quality education,” said Bill Honig, superintendent of public instruction in California. “The question is, ‘How do you get the citizenry involved in an organized way to push for reform?’ They would be trying to get a large group of members signed up and lobbying state legislators and school-board members [nationwide]. It would be a coalition of concerned citizens, a force for quality education.”

Mr. Honig, who said he has been asked by Mr. Finn to offer his comments on the Governors’ proposal, added that a research component is included in the Governors’ plans in order to ''sustain the intellectual development” of the reform movement.

The new chairman of the Education Commission of the States, Gov. Charles S. Robb of Virginia, also recently voiced his intention to make changes in the leadership and structure of that organization in an effort to increase its ability to shape national education policy.

According to Robert C. Andringa, the outgoing director of the 19-year-old organization, the ecs’s present mission is to provide staff support for governors and other policymakers in the states.

Mr. Honig said the commission “is a good forum for exchanging ideas and sharing information, but it hasn’t been action-oriented.”

“Because it has to reflect the concerns of 50 states,” he said, “it is very difficult to form a consensus. It’s another thing if you have 2 million people [in a membership organization] behind an agenda of seven or eight issues.”

The two governors and others familiar with the proposed organization declined to offer details about it.

A version of this article appeared in the September 05, 1984 edition of Education Week as Idea of Citizen’s Lobby Is Weighed by Governors

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