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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Education Secretary Rod Paige called the nation's largest teachers' union a "terrorist organization" during a meeting on Monday with U.S. governors, but the White House said he later apologized.
The comment about the National Education Association, which represents 2.7 million teachers and other educators, sparked immediate criticism from Democrats and the union.
Paige made the remark while discussing the federal "No Child Left Behind" education law with governors at the White House, said Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, who attended the meeting.
"In the context of saying that the NEA was not being cooperative with No Child Left Behind, he called them a terrorist organization," Doyle told Reuters.
Doyle said he had not taken Paige's comments literally, "but that level of hostility toward teachers does not help in trying to improve education in the country."
Paige apologized for the comment, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.
"The secretary realized he made an inappropriate comment and he has quickly apologized," Duffy said. "The president thinks he (Paige) is doing an excellent job educating America's children and that is the most important thing." NEA President Reg Weaver said it was "morally repugnant to equate those who teach America's children with terrorists."
"Yet this is the kind of rhetoric we have come to expect from this administration whenever one challenges its world view," Weaver said in a statement.
During the meeting, Democratic governors complained the federal government had failed to provide enough funding for cash-strapped states to meet new requirements in the No Child Left Behind Law.
The 2002 law mandates annual student testing, the training and hiring of qualified teachers, and school accountability.
"In my state, the underfunding is several hundred million dollars annually, which impacts our ability to attract quality teachers, buy sufficient supplies and have access to technology," Iowa Democratic Gov. Thomas Vilsack told a news conference.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, dismissed the notion federal funding was insufficient and said: "There is enough money that comes to states. The overall expenditures to the states are up 43 percent in this fiscal year."
President Bush told the governors he would "vigorously" defend the law.
While the NEA is one fucked up group, the word terrorist definately does not apply.
-------------------- You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. What one person receives without working for another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for that my dear friend is the beginning of the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. ~ Adrian Rogers
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