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Georgia teacher group backs Taylor
Martin, Cox also endorsed
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ATLANTA — Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor picked up the endorsement Wednesday of one of the state’s largest teachers groups, despite an effort by Gov. Sonny Perdue to woo educators this election year.

The 40,000-member Georgia Association of Educators praised Taylor’s work on the HOPE scholarship and pre-kindergarten as well as his consistent support for lowering class sizes and opposition to education funding cuts.

GAE President Jeff Hubbard said Taylor had the better record to keep Georgia’s schools moving forward.

Taylor on Wednesday said support from teachers had helped him win the Democratic primary and would be ‘‘critical’’ in this race.

‘‘It sends a signal to every school teacher in Georgia that there is only one candidate for governor looking after them and our kids,’’ Taylor said.

The GAE also endorsed Democrat Jim Martin in the race for lieutenant governor and incumbent state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox, a Republican.

Perdue has made an aggressive effort this year to court teachers, who are widely credited with helping him upset Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes in 2002. Perdue pushed through a raise for teachers and handed them $100 gift cards to help buy back-to-school supplies for their classrooms. He also introduced legislation to lower class sizes in elementary and middle schools.

Hubbard said some teachers felt Perdue’s lobbying was transparent. But the decision was made on the Perdue administration record, which he said came up short.

‘‘When you look at the record over the last four years it’s been disappointing,’’ Hubbard said.

The Perdue camp disputed that. They noted that Georgia’s class sizes are on the decline, teachers are the highest paid in the Southeast and SAT rankings and graduation rates have improved.

‘‘Those evidently aren’t the priorities of the GAE union bosses, but they are the priorities the individuals in the classroom, and we are confident that we’ll earn their trust and vote as we did four years ago,’’ Perdue spokesman Derrick Dickey said.

In endorsing Martin over Republican state Sen. Casey Cagle in the race for the No. 2 spot, the GAE pointed to Martin’s strong pro-education record over 18 years in the state Legislature.

The GAE praised Cox for her work to revamp the state’s curriculum and the implementation of the federal ‘‘No Child Left Behind’’ laws. The group also trumpeted Cox’s work leading the state Department of Education through tough economic times, which saw cuts to education funding.

Cox is running against former U.S. Rep. Denise Majette who four years ago upset then five-term Rep. Cynthia McKinney.

The GAE did not endorse in the 2002 race for governor, which some took as a tacit sign of support for then-challenger Perdue. The group has traditionally endorsed Democrats and their failure to support Barnes was widely interpreted as a vote of ‘‘no confidence’’ in the governor, who was pushing through aggressive education reforms.

The state’s largest teachers group, the 65,000-member Professional Association of Georgia Educators, does not endorse political candidates.
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