Illinois Education Association President Anne Davis accompanied Gov.
George Ryan and other state leaders on a humanitarian trip to Cuba last
week. The only representative from the teaching profession on the
mission, Ms. Davis brought several thousand dollars' worth of chalk,
erasers, and other basic educational supplies to the Abraham Lincoln
Primary School in Havana.
Mr. Ryan, a Republican, is the first sitting U.S. governor to visit Cuba since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. The governor, who delivered more than $1 million in donated medical supplies and clothing, emphasized that the trip was undertaken to help Cuban families, and did not violate the United States' economic embargo against the Communist nation. He hoped to foster a positive image of Illinois that could prove advantageous should U.S. sanctions against the Caribbean island country be lifted.
Ms. Davis said she also used the trip as a way to establish links between Cuban teachers and students and their peers in the United States. "I think there are things we can share with them about what's happening with our education system, and things they can share with us,'' she said. "It was really an outstanding trip."
Gov. Mike Foster of Louisiana has been elected to a second term, in which one of his first priorities will be to call a special session of the legislature to raise teacher salaries.
The Republican governor received support from about 62 percent of voters in the Oct. 23 nonpartisan primary, thus avoiding a runoff election. His main challenger, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, a Democrat, won about 30 percent of the vote.
Improving Louisiana's schools has been a prominent theme for the governor. He has played a leadership role in helping to create an accountability system for schools, which is just now beginning to take effect.
In a speech the day after his victory, Mr. Foster promised to call a special legislative session next spring to enact a pay increase for school teachers and college professors to bring their salaries up to the average in the South. Louisiana teachers' average salary last school yearabout $32,510 was roughly $2,600 below the average for member states of the Southern Regional Education Board, according to LouAnn Bierlein, the governor's education adviser.
--Jessica L. Sandham & Erik W. Robelen
Vol. 19, Issue 10, Page 18Published in Print: November 3, 1999, as State Journal