Teachers’ unions shun Duncan

Guess who’s not coming to speak at the National Education Association’s convention in New Orleans? President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, once welcome at the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers conventions, aren’t on the guest list this year “partly because union officials feared that administration speakers would face heckling,” reports the New York Times.

The largest union’s meeting opened here on Saturday to a drumbeat of heated rhetoric, with several speakers calling for Mr. Duncan’s resignation, hooting delegates voting for a resolution criticizing federal programs for “undermining public education,” and the union’s president summing up 18 months of Obama education policies by saying, “This is not the change I hoped for.”

“Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced,” Dennis Van Roekel, president of the union, the National Education Association, told thousands of members gathered at the convention center here.

Many teachers feel they are being blamed for problems that are beyond their control. Union leaders are angry that Obama and Duncan aren’t willing to cut Race to the Top reforms to fund a $10 billion education jobs bill.

The  NEA spent $50 million in 2008 to help elect Democrats; the AFT spent millions more.

“If the teachers sit on their hands this fall, it would be a disaster for Obama and the Democrats,” said Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who has studied the teachers’ unions.

Duncan is trying to avoid confrontation. “Some state and local unions are very thoughtful and progressive and are embracing innovation,” Duncan told the Times. “Others are more entrenched in the status quo.”

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  1. If the teachers’ unions are against him, then he must be doing a great job.

  2. Couldn’t they both be wrong?
    The NEA is not 100% wrong and Duncan’s goals aren’t 100% wrong. The big missing element is productive teacher answers. If I hear one more time that older teacher=bad teacher and new teacher-good teacher, I’ll scream. Our schools need both; the best schools have eager new teachers learning from seasoned vets who mentor well.

  3. Roger Sweeny says:

    Who says older teacher=bad teacher and new teacher=good teacher?

  4. If the teachers’ unions are against him, then he must be doing a great job.

    Try not to be more stupid than God made you.

  5. A pox on both their houses.

  6. Try not to be more stupid than God made you.

    Very persuasive.

    In a thuggish sort of way but then what are your alternatives? You certainly can’t argue the merits of the case since ol’ Robert’s just pointing to the inevitably self-serving nature of the union response.

    It is getting pretty difficult to paper over the split occurring in the Democratic party between the traditionalists who can’t imagine any other course but to support the NEA come hell or high water and the folks who are aware that one of the key constituencies on which the Democratic party depends, black voters, is in direct opposition to the teacher’s unions.

    Obama’s clearly picked the black voter over the teacher’s unions. Be interesting to see what happens if the union threats backfire.

  7. Charles says:

    If I hear another teacher or Teacher’s union officials say “its about the kids” or “I vote for children” I’ll puke.

    Its not about the kids at all and they know it.

    Its about protecting their raises and fully funded health care.

    Chris Christie’s call for teachers to pay 1.5% of their annual salary towards their health care is rejected out of hand as too much burden for them to bear. However, his suggestion that the massively funded teachers union in NJ suspend their dues for that same year is also rejected. If the teachers union in NJ suspended their dues for that year, and the teachers paid 1.5% of their annual salary for ONE year towards their health care, NJ could balance the budget and not have to lay off essential employees like the cops and firefighters.

    Will the Union and the teachers agree to this common sense request? Of course not!

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    If you are in a union long enough, or grow up in a union town, you think there is always enough money. It’s just that the rich bastards want to keep it all for themselves.

  9. I thought brevity would be appreciated. I’m sorry if it provoked ad hominem.

    So I’ll expatiate.

    As a 35 year member of CTA, I appreciate what they’ve done for me, my salary, my job security, my future retirement benefits, but as a teacher, I’ve also been interested in seeing my profession move forward while CTA has consistently been the biggest obstacle in the way of needed change.

    Having spent time as a union organizer for cannery workers, farmworkers, and restaurant workers, and being an actual card carrying member of IWW, I’m closer to Pete Seeger than Bill O’Reilly.

    But CTA is more like a big business than a union.

    I appreciate what they’ve given me, but it hasn’t bought my silence.

    As a big, successful business, it’s natural for them to embrace the status quo and to fight against even modest change.

    Obama was not elected to maintain the status quo so it’s natural that he and Duncan are on a collision course with the union.

    My union opposes change. I hope it’s toppled.

    I’m sorry if that opinion makes people overreact.

  10. Charles-

    Why should New Jersey’s budget be balanced entirely on the backs of the teachers?

    Why does Chris Christie continue to oppose asking the ultra-wealthy to share in the sacrifice by continuing to oppose the “millionaires’ amendment”?

    Or is it only the workers who have to “share in the sacrifice” to balance New Jersey’s budget?

    Chris Christie’s true agenda is to destroy public education and funnel taxpayer money into bigoted religious schools – not to make New Jersey a better place.


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