Closing the minority achievement gap is the top priority of the National Education Association, declared Reg Weaver, the union’s president, in a speech at the annual convention. Education Week reports:
He also told the delegates to the convention that leaders of minority communities are “being courted by those who want to destroy public education, and, unfortunately, some are being persuaded” to support, for example, charter schools and vouchers. He blamed what he views as the foes’ success, in part, on lagging achievement among black and Hispanic students compared with their white counterparts.
The NEA has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the No Child Left Behind Act, which seeks to close the achievement gap “with state-designed systems of standards, testing, and consequences,” Education Week notes. That opposition has alienated the union from some of its traditional allies.
Weaver has launched a campaign to make $40,000 a year the minimum teacher salary across the country: Even Alaska only pays $38,500 to first-year teachers.
He tied the proposed salary hikes to raising the achievement of minority students, saying it would help recruit and retain the teachers who are needed for that job.
Weaver told teachers to help poorly performing teachers improve in order to maintain the profession’s credibility.
Despite those injunctions, the speech did not urge teachers to, for instance, improve their teaching methods or demand better support for high-quality instruction from administrators.
Nor does the NEA’s budget for the year starting in August reflect a greater emphasis on raising student achievement. The department with that responsibility is to see its funding go up by less than 1 percent over the year, while the department handling collective bargaining and member advocacy is slated for an increase of almost 4 percent.
Actually, I thought the Ed Week article was quite hostile to the union. “News analysis” journalists call that.
Mike Antonucci of Education Intelligence Agency covered the convention in his usual sardonic style. He quotes Weaver as saying, “If there are those who choose to call us the keepers of the status quo, so be it. The status quo is the public in public education, and we are the keepers!”