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Departure of Official Is Sought by Teachers

Susan Ohanian letter to New York Times:

Dear Editor:

Re: "Departure of Official Is Sought by Teachers," July 9, 2014), I would rather know the reaction of mainstream Democratic operatives to this major teacher union call to dump Duncan than the predictable self-serving rant from the hedgefund financed PAC, Democrats for Education Reform.

Ohanian Comment:

Could there be a lamer headline?

Arne posits the NEA resolution at a convention as "local union politics."

And for an informed (sic) comment, the New York Times calls on its good old stand-by
Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform and uses the euphemism "advocacy group" to describe a PAC financed by major hedge fund managers. David Sirota summed them up:

Corporate education "reformers'" self-interest ... means advocating for policies that help private corporations profit off of public schools, diverting public attention from an anti-poverty economic agenda, and busting unions that prevent total oligarchical control of America's political system. In short, it's about the profit, stupid.

Miffed that there was a lot of hot air about Race to the Top but little serious questioning of this radical federal deformation of what should be local school policy--and that the "other guys" got all the press--I took a look. This meant reading some 700 articles on the subject of RTTT and the Common Core standards
published between mid-May 2009 and mid-July 2010. In an article for Extra! Who gets to speaks about what schools need? Race to the Top and the Bill Gates Connection, I showed which "independent experts" reporters called upon to explain these programs. The national press called on Joe Williams and his DER cohort Charles Barone over 40 times for comment on education policy. Of the 23 experts
quoted five times or more, 15 have connections
with institutions receiving Gates funding
and 13 with strong charter advocacy

Remember that just two years ago when attempt was made to introduce a "Dump Arne Duncan" resolution at the convention, NEA operatives did not allow it to reach the floor. You will recall that during the Chicago Teachers Strike Dennis Van Roekel traveled with Arne on his bus tour. On September 19, 2012, NEA sent out a press release about this bus ride.

Sure, I'm glad the NEA passed the resolution, but let's recognize it for what it is: window dressing. Curmedgucation blog makes the essential point: Duncan is a spokesperson for a product. He doesn't run the company, and he doesn't build the product.

Duncan is the batboy for the team.

Democrat loyalists with their heads in the sand who like to think that President Obama just needs a better education chief are delusional beyond belief. Duncan is spokesman for the Obama/business roundtable product.

By Motoko Rich

The long partnership between Democrats and teachers' unions has frayed in recent years as the Obama administration has pursued policies that many teachers oppose, including performance ratings that link student test scores to evaluations and decisions about promotion or firing.

But the dissatisfaction hit a new level late last week when the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, with almost three million members, passed a resolution at its convention in Denver calling for the resignation of the secretary of education, Arne Duncan.

Dennis Van Roekel, the departing president of the union, said the resolution passed in a very close vote among the 7,500 delegates. Although delegates have presented similar resolutions in the past, this is the first time the measure has passed.

"I really do believe this is about something much bigger than Arne himself," Mr. Van Roekel said. He said "frustration and anger" has mounted at the use of high-stakes tests in teacher evaluations.

Mr. Van Roekel added that teachers were angered by Mr. Duncan's supportive response last month to a judge's ruling in California that teacher tenure laws deprived students of their right to an education under the State Constitution and violated their civil rights.

Analysts of labor politics said the resolution represented a watershed between the Democratic Party and teachers' unions.

"Who would have predicted 10 years ago that a Democratic administration would pursue an agenda and teacher policies that are so vehemently opposed by the union?" said Patrick McGuinn, an associate professor of political science at Drew University. "It's a Nixon-goes-to-China kind of moment."

Mr. Duncan briefly answered questions about the resolution during a media briefing at which he released the administration's proposal to assign more effective and experienced teachers to low-income schools.

"I always try to stay out of local union politics and I think most teachers do, too," he said, adding that the administration "had a very good working relationship with the N.E.A. in the past." He said he looked forward to working with the association's new president, Lily Eskelsen García.

Since the National Education Association began endorsing presidential candidates with Jimmy Carter in 1976, the group has always backed Democrats.

But at the state level, both the N.E.A. and the American Federation of Teachers, the country's second-largest teachers' union, have contributed to the campaigns of Republican lawmakers -- even those considered quite conservative -- who opposed tenure changes or test-based teacher evaluations.

Ms. Eskelsen Garcia has indicated her interest in continuing to reach out to Republicans. She has also spoken out against using standardized testing to evaluate teachers.

Teachers who oppose the administration's proposals said Democrats had taken them for granted for too long.

"We're not getting anything for it politically," said Anthony Cody, a founder of the Network for Public Education, a political action group, who retired after 24 years as a teacher and coach.

The American Federation of Teachers meets for its annual convention in Los Angeles starting Friday. Local affiliates submit resolutions before the convention, and none currently call for Mr. Duncan's resignation.

The group's president, Randi Weingarten, said in an email that "there's plenty of opportunity for members to amend resolutions, so you never know what will happen on the floor."

Democrats who embrace the changes pushed by the Obama administration said the resolution showed the waning influence of the teachers' union.

"The Democratic Party used to outsource its education policy to the N.E.A.," said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, an advocacy group that supports test-based evaluations and changes to tenure.

"The Duncan vote," Mr. Williams said, "made them look like the lunatic fringe. It's not exactly the way you convince the public that you've got a good, credible idea."

— Motoko Rich with Ohanian comment
New York Times





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