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Maryland, Virginia Governors Spar Over Teacher Unions

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Gov. McDonnell (far left), Gov. O'Malley, Mayor Ballard and Mayor Cornett with moderators Gwen Ifill and Morton Kondracke in a panel at the Grad Nation Summit.
Michaele White, Gov. McDonnell's photographer
Gov. McDonnell (far left), Gov. O'Malley, Mayor Ballard and Mayor Cornett with moderators Gwen Ifill and Morton Kondracke in a panel at the Grad Nation Summit.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-Md.) and Bob McDonnell (R-Va.) may belong to different parties, but when it comes to public schools, their states are very similar. The publication Education Week ranked public schools in Maryland number one in the nation, while Virginia came in fourth.

Maryland has a slightly higher graduation rate, while Virginia has fewer schools called "dropout factories", a term dubbed by the organizers of the Building a Grad Nation Summit. Organizers have set a goal of a national graduation rate of 90 percent by the year 2020.

O'Malley and McDonnell differed on the role teacher unions will play in reaching that goal. O'Malley says unions and collective bargaining are part of the solution.

"A lot times we have found that managers not only in our public school systems, but throughout government, use work rules and collective bargaining as an excuse for not doing their job as managers to write people up and to fire them when they're not performing," he says.

McDonnell says as a right-to-work state, there are no teacher unions in Virginia.

"I think we manage well without a union. But the influence and input of the associations frankly representing a large group of professionals is helpful," he says.

As for education funding, O'Malley says money and investment are crucial to good schools. McDonnell responded by calling the role money plays over-emphasized.

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