State Journal: No love lost; Vaccine penalty

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The relationship between Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and the New Jersey Education Association is on the skids.

Not that they were buddies to begin with, but after Mrs. Whitman upset Gov. James J. Florio last year, she and union leaders said they would try to work together in the best interests of education.

In recent weeks, however, they have traded barbs over the Governor's proposal to reduce the state contribution to public employees' pension funds.

Hostilities intensified last month after Governor Whitman sent a letter directly to 107,000 public school teachers outlining her proposal and, according to her spokesman, trying to correct misinformation that had been spread.

This infuriated the N.J.E.A.'s president, Dennis Testa, who called it "an act of desperation by an administration that in four short months has become one of the biggest enemies of public employees in New Jersey history.''

The union is planning a protest rally outside the state Capitol early next week.

"They're not behaving in an adult fashion,'' retorted Carl Golden, the Governor's spokesman, adding that union leaders are acting like "the Governor committed some unpardonable sin by communicating with public school teachers.''

A Michigan law designed to increase the number of children who receive immunizations may cost the cash-strapped Detroit schools $4.3 million in state aid this year.

The law required districts to insure that at least 90 percent of kindergartners and other new students were immunized by May 14, or face losing 5 percent of the state-aid payments to go out in June. The quota will rise to 95 percent next year.

Bob Harris, a spokesman for the state education department, said three other districts also failed to meet the law's requirements: Oak Park, which is to lose $7,793; Chippewa Hills, assessed a penalty of $11,882; and Forest Park, which stands to lose a modest $1,297.

The districts can recover the money if they meet the vaccine quota by Sept. 30.

"Frankly, this is the kind of law which puts the economically disadvantaged at a further disadvantage,'' Clifford Cox, a deputy superintendent in Detroit, told The Associated Press.--KAREN DIEGMUELLER & JULIE A. MILLER

Vol. 13, Issue 37

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