Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes ushers tenure reform through the state legislature against a kicking and screaming Georgia Association of Educators. California Gov. Gray Davis publicly opposes a California Teachers Association initiative to raise taxes for more per-pupil spending and gets called a “tightfisted, penny pinching, shortsighted bureaucrat” by CTA President Wayne Johnson. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack calls for a study of merit pay. Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano wants to keep his proposed public school accountability system free from modification through collective bargaining.
Union headaches with governors are not news — unless the governors are Democrats elected with substantial union support, as is the case with all of the above. At the same time, Illinois Gov. George Ryan was praised by Illinois Education Association President Ann Davis as someone who had “made good on his promises to put education first.” Ryan is a Republican who was elected with IEA backing.
There are still few disagreements between Democratic governors and teachers’ unions. And it is still an extremely rare occurrence for a teachers’ union to back a Republican over a Democrat in a statewide race. But these aberrations will become more frequent, testing the comfort level of everyone involved. There will be more real contests for union endorsements (like Ryan vs. Poshard in Illinois, and Cayetano vs. Lingle in Hawaii). There will more Democratic governors refusing to sign on to the unions’ pet projects, and there will be more Republican governors with a cozy relationship with the unions. Whether this mini-trend will make matters better or worse remains to be seen.