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Sandra Peterson, former legislator and education union leader, dies of cancer

Former state Rep. Sandra Peterson, a long-time education advocate and teacher’s union leader, died Saturday after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 79.

Services are pending.

Peterson had been elected to four terms in the Legislature from Robbinsdale. She didn’t seek re-election in 2012.

The Star Tribune notes that she was head of the Minnesota Federation of Teachers for more than 10 years, and helped engineer the merger of the state’s two teachers unions in 1998.

Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement that Peterson “was a dedicated educator and legislator. She cared deeply about better educational opportunity for all children.”

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said: “As a teacher, education leader, and legislator, Sandra Peterson dedicated her career to improving the lives of children. Her efforts, over decades in public life, will have a lasting, positive impact on our state for many years to come.”

The Star Tribune says she “battled school voucher proposals and teacher cutbacks, and she pushed for smaller classes. She refused to equate effective education with an efficiently run business.”

Two weeks ago, her health deteriorated, the paper said, and “she checked into the hospital and took a rapid turn for the worse. She spent her last week in hospice care, surrounded by family, friends and colleagues from her education and legislative days.”

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