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NEA protests California budget
LOS ANGELES — Republican educators yesterday joined the president of the National Education Association and union colleagues from across the nation in a protest march on California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s downtown office here.
The march came a day after the liberal-leaning NEA also agreed to give more than $170,000 to its Republican caucus to advance the union’s agenda within the Republican Party.
Three hundred marchers, joined by NEA President Reg Weaver and Barbara E. Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, demonstrated on a 1-mile walk between the Los Angeles Convention Center and Mr. Schwarzenegger’s local offices on Wilshire Boulevard.
The protest was against budget cuts and a teacher-tenure ballot initiative endorsed by the governor.
“Starting with you, Governor Schwarzenegger, you raid our pensions, you raid our budgets. We’re here to tell you that dog ain’t gonna hunt no more,” Mr. Weaver said to cheering delegates in the convention hall before the march began.
But Margita Thompson, the governor’s press secretary, said NEA claims of education budget cuts are false. Mr. Schwarzenegger’s current budget will allocate $3 billion more this year for public schools than in 2004, she said.
In talks with state legislative leaders, the governor is proposing spending more than $10,000 per public-school student, she said, noting that this would be “the highest amount ever spent in California.”
Late Monday, before July Fourth fireworks at Dodger Stadium, the NEA’s 9,000 delegates at their yearly business meeting here awarded $171,125 of union money to the NEA Republican Educators Caucus.
The grant would pay for training, polling, focus groups and other assistance for “a strategic program to help NEA Republican members advance a pro-public education agenda within the Republican Party.”
“NEA Republicans need to take back their party from the extreme right,” delegate Scott Ellingson of Wisconsin said as rationale for the political spending for Republican union members.
“At every level, they need to get active to change the GOP’s agenda from anti-public education to pro-public education. NEA educators are the obvious choice to change their party’s agenda from within.”
Delegate Marcia Boone of Georgia said she did not favor the NEA’s singling out Republicans for the $171,125 training and advocacy award.
“It’s got to be all of us working together. You shouldn’t single out one group,” Mrs. Boone said.
Ron Edwards, Pacific region chairman for the Republican caucus and a supporter of Miss Adam, said he agreed with the NEA-supported advocacy funding.
“It will bring improved communication and members who are willing to pull together for a common goal that will lead to better relations on both sides of the [political] aisle for public education and increase communication between the national Republican Party and the [NEA] Republican caucus,” Mr. Edwards said.
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