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Davis, Teachers at Odds

Education: He opposes a bill that would allow union to bargain over textbooks, other issues.


SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gray Davis on Wednesday announced he is opposing the California teacher union's most eagerly sought bill of the year, one that would give them the right to bargain over textbooks used by their students and other classroom issues.

Davis for the first time publicly said he opposes the bill as written. He sought to strike a middle ground, saying local school districts should consider teachers' "advice and guidance" on classroom issues in some sort of formal process.

But the Democratic governor said he opposes legislation that would turn over to the collective bargaining process questions about textbooks and other aspects of curriculum.

"I don't want textbooks to be held hostage to issues involving wages," Davis said. "The collective bargaining process is the appropriate forum for negotiating wages and salary increases. That is perfectly appropriate. But we want textbooks in the hands of kids."

The head of the California Teachers Assn. called the legislation, headed for its first committee vote next week, a "defining issue," and said Davis' opposition could prompt the teachers to "sit on their hands" in the November election.

The union spent $1.3 million to help Davis win election in 1998, and has given him $62,000 since he took office.

The California Teachers Assn. has been trying to raise the visibility of the issue by airing radio ads advocating that people support granting teachers a greater say in curriculum.

In Sacramento, the 300,000-member union is pushing AB2160 by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) to require local school districts and teachers unions to negotiate over ways to improve student performance. School administrators oppose the bill, calling it a union power grab and contending that it would undermine school reforms.

"That's what he says right now," Goldberg said of Davis' announced opposition to her bill. "Do things change? You bet they do."

But in an interview, CTA President Wayne Johnson said Davis' opposition is "going to cost the governor significantly with teachers."

"The CTA is going to find out who its friends are," Johnson said. "The CTA has a long memory. Politicians come to you with their hands out for money and support, and then, on tough issues, they go south on you."

Davis campaign spokesman Roger Salazar was unfazed by Johnson's comments, saying: "I think when all is said and done, Gov. Davis is going to have strong support of teachers."

Salazar also said it shows that the governor "doesn't base his decisions on contributions or endorsement. He bases his decision on what is the best public policy."

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