MOBILE, ALA., JULY 29 -- The annual meeting of the National Governors Association took on a mildy contentious tone here today as governors divided along partisan and regional lines over issues ranging from education and taxes to the $300 billion savings and loan scandal.

On the education front, Democrats and Republicans had to hold a lengthy unscheduled closed-door caucus this morning to work out differences over the makeup and role of a new national panel that will monitor education progress in the states.

The sticking point, explained one Democratic governor who asked not to be identified, was that governors "don't want the president to measure us when we're out here in the trenches and all he's doing is churning out press releases."

On the savings and loan issue, the governors' executive committee turned aside objections by several Republicans and approved a resolution calling for the president and Congress to create an independent panel to study the causes and impact of the fiasco.

While governors of both parties acknowledged the resolution was largely symbolic, they did not miss the chance to get in partisan digs. North Dakota Gov. George A. Sinner (D) said the S&L issue was such a "nightmare" that "it may make it impossible for George Bush to even talk about reelection."

"Studies {on the S&L scandal} have literally been pouring forth. . . . The time for studying is over," said Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft (R), head of the Republican Governors Association, in trying to shoot down the resolution.

The S&L issue also exposed regional fissures here this weekend. Vermont Gov. Madeleine M. Kunin (D) touched a raw nerve when, two days before the meeting, she circulated a draft letter in which she said that the "savings and loan bailout will involve one of the greatest regional transfers of income and wealth in American history."

She and governors of other states where there have been few or no savings and loan failures argue their citizens are being asked to pay twice for a disaster not of their making -- their tax dollars will bail out bad loans made primarily in the Sunbelt and they will, over time, build up the infrastructure of a competing region of the country.

"It is almost as if our policy is to reward failure and punish prudence," said Michigan Gov. James J. Blanchard (D). "And then, on top of that, the administration compounds the problem when it starts to talk about taking away state and local tax deductibility."

Blanchard was referring to an administration proposal to cap the deductibility of state and local taxes at $10,000 a year -- which would disproportionately hit the high-tax states of the Northeast and Midwest.

One of those who reacted most strongly to Kunin's letter was Arizona Gov. Rose Mofford (D) who circulated a letter saying that the disaster was the result of "national policies" and that it would create "chaos" to apportion federal costs to citizens based on an analysis of which states received how much benefit.

In the midst of the sparring today over the details of the national education monitoring system that Bush and the governors agreed to establish at an education summit last fall, Ohio Gov. Richard F. Celeste (D) said in an interview that while Bush may tout himself as the education president, his "involvement in this issue has been unpredictable -- I would even describe it as faddish."

"The NGA is supposed to be a bipartisan organization," said South Carolina Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. (R). "If partisanship is more important than education, then let them {Democrats} defend that. I hope it isn't."

Democrats won several concessions from the White House in a sometimes stormy, 2 1/2-hour, closed-door meeting involving about a dozen governors of both parties and Bush's domestic policy adviser, Roger P. Porter.

Porter agreed that the number of governors on the education assessment panel be increased from four to six, with three from each party, while the administration contingent would stay at four, as originally planned. With 75 percent approval required for any decision, the three Democratic governors will hold veto power on the panel.

Porter also agreed that the annual report cards will score, not only each state's education progress, but the record of the federal government in fulfilling Charlottesville commitments to finance education research and to assist needy youngsters with pre-school, school and college-access programs.

The Democratic governors joined the Republicans and the White House in rejecting a last-minute suggestion from House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) and Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) that they wait for Congress to pass a law establishing an assessment panel, with outside experts on it.

Porter portrayed the outcome as proof that "the partnership between the White House and the governors is alive and well." He predicted that the pattern of consensus decision-making -- no formal votes were taken during today's closed-door meeting -- will continue on the assessment panel.