NEA, Democrat Hopefuls Agree on Aid Increase

Times Political Writer

Eight Democratic presidential contenders seeking support from the 1.9-million-member National Education Assn. agreed with the teachers group on most educational issues--ranging from increasing federal aid to schools to opposing tuition tax credits--in questionnaires released here Tuesday.

The questionnaires and 15-minute taped interviews will be made available to NEA members in state affiliates as the first step in a process by which the organization will decide in December whether it will endorse a presidential candidate, as it backed Walter F. Mondale in 1984.

NEA officials said they also sought to get GOP candidates involved in the process. But only Kansas Sen. Bob Dole among the active Republican candidates responded to the questionnaire and he did not complete all of it. Another Republican, New York Rep. Jack Kemp, has agreed to the videotape interview, said Ken Melley, NEA political director.

20 Specific Issues

Candidates were asked to explain how they would use the presidency to "achieve educational excellence" and to improve educators' salaries. Another part of the questionnaire, which Dole did not answer, asked whether they agreed with the NEA position on 20 specific legislative issues.

Disagreement was limited to a handful of issues. Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt all opposed an NEA proposal to change the tax revision law's treatment of retirement income for teachers.

Former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt and Gephardt differed from the NEA's opposition to taxation of individual employee benefits. And Dukakis and Gephardt opposed the NEA's demand that federal tax deductions be restored for union dues and professional expenses.

Other Policies Rejected

Sen. Albert Gore Jr. disagreed with the group's support for a nuclear freeze, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Illinois Sen. Paul Simon rejected the NEA's opposition to mandatory Social Security coverage for public employees. Colorado Rep. Pat Schroeder disagreed with the NEA's support for continuation of the Education Department.

After NEA members are given an opportunity to comment, association President Mary Hatwood Futrell will recommend whether the organization should endorse one or more candidates for nomination or general election. An endorsement requires a 58% vote of the NEA board of directors.

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