State Journal: Caperton counters; Fernandez rolls; Leadership or money

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The 12-day strike by West Virginia teachers was widely seen as a major political setback for Gov. Gaston Caperton.

Despite a high-profile effort, Mr. Caperton was unable to bring a quick end to last month's walkout, which was eventually settled after teachers'-union officials agreed to a compromise with leaders of the legislature.

As part of that deal, lawmakers agreed to press the Governor to call a special session this summer on school funding.

But, while he is expected to accept that request, Mr. Caperton recently counterattacked by suggesting he would bring his own agenda to the session--even if that made life uncomfortable for his critics.

The Governor indicated he thought legislators should consider merit pay and competency testing for teachers, which the unions have opposed.

"We've got no sacred cows," he said.

Mr. Caperton also blasted the West Virginia Education Association for a memo that reportedly labeled nonstriking teachers "scabs."

"I think teachers should not be referred to in those terms," he said. "I don't think that this is supposed to be a game of power."

Joseph A. Fernandez, chancellor of the New York City schools, is on a roll with state policymakers these days.

Last month, Mr. Fernandez won quick approval of legislation formalizing an agreement he had worked out with the city principals' union to abolish building tenure.

More recently, the state Board of Regents dropped a controversial plan to radically decentralize the administration of the city's schools.

The proposal, which was offered before Mr. Fernandez's appointment, would have abolished the chancellorship.

Board members said that the popularity of Mr. Fernandez's reform moves had led them to put aside the proposal.

"The [chancellor] we have now has been so successful it would be terrible to ever think of cutting out from underneath him," said Martin C. Barell, chancellor of the state board.

Despite the state's fiscal woes, a leading candidate for the Massachusetts governorship has called for a new program linking school and work.

Francis X. Belloti, a Democrat, recently outlined a system of vocational apprenticeships matched to businesses' needs for workers.

He emphasized that the proposal would not cost much money.

"We need only to provide the strong personal leadership," he said. --hd

Vol. 09, Issue 28

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