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Election Issue of Education Is Promoted

Susan Notes: I guess it's good news, though I wish money weren't the issue.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 - A coalition of organizations, led by the nation's largest teachers union, introduced a campaign on Wednesday to mobilize opposition to the No Child Left Behind law, to demand more money for public schools and to raise the profile of education as an election issue.

Members of the coalition include the National Education Association, the teachers union, which has endorsed Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, for president, and MoveOn.org, the 2.3 million-member Internet-based political movement that also backs Mr. Kerry. But it also includes groups like Acorn, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and the Forum on Education and Democracy, which are more oriented toward policy.

The campaign, called the National Mobilization for Great Public Schools, came under attack from Congressional Republicans, but the coalition insisted that its effort was nonpartisan and that it would not endorse any candidate or party.

Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, cited opinion polls showing that Americans favor expanding pre-schools, smaller class sizes, better training and pay for teachers and strong after-school programs.

"Americans understand the importance of education," Mr. Borosage said. "What we're trying to do is make sure that widespread feeling gets mobilized and addressed in the larger policy debate."

The groups plan to have thousands of supporters hold house parties on Sept. 22, at which they will show a video outlining their priorities for education. Mr. Borosage said meetings were also planned in schools, churches, libraries and workplaces.

Polls generally show education trailing as an issue among voters, behind the economy, the war in Iraq, security and health care. "One thing is sure," said Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, which has 2.7 million members. "If we don't address it, it won't receive any more attention than it does at the present time."

Stephen Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, defended the president's record on education and accused the groups of partisan motivation. "A coalition that involves the N.E.A. and MoveOn.org is by definition not nonpartisan," Mr. Schmidt said.

— Diana Schemo
New York Times


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