Obama, Duncan, Frustration and the Race to Control the Senate, and, the Implications.

Union leaders have an obligation to their membership, which means maintaining a relationship with management, in my union rep days I agreed with my superintendent on a range of issues and “agreed to disagree,” on others.

Education Week reports,

Delegates to the National Education Association’s annual convention passed a new business item … calling for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to resign. The surprising move comes on the heels of union anger over moves across the United States to revise due-process protections, tenure, and seniority—some of which have been supported by Democrats, including the Obama administration. Proposed by the union’s powerful California affiliate, the item cites “the Department’s failed education agenda focused on more high-stakes testing, grading and pitting public school students against each other based on test scores” as its rationale for demanding the secretary’s resignation.

It is easy to understand the frustration of teachers with the policies of the Obama administration, and the messenger Arne Duncan; the New Business Item was extremely popular; unfortunately the momentary joy will change nothing.

Duncan’s positive comments on the Vergara decision was immediately challenged by AFT President Weingarten in a sharply worded letter to Duncan,

This week, we needed your leadership; to demonstrate that teacher and student interests are aligned; that we must press—60 years after Brown v. Board—for educational equity; that it takes more than a focus on teachers to improve public education; that, when it comes to teachers, we need to promote strategies that attract, retain and support them in classrooms; and that, of course, removing teachers who can’t do their job in quick and effective ways is important, but so is due process, so teachers can take creative risks that enhance teaching and learning.

But instead, you added to the polarization. And teachers across the country are wondering why the secretary of education thinks that stripping them of their due process is the way to help all children succeed.

And Duncan backed away from his praise of the Vergara decision,

Tenure itself is not the issue here. I absolutely support job security for effective teachers. I think it’s vital to protect teachers from arbitrary or ill-motivated job actions.

Feel good proposals don’t address the political crisis: the Republicans may gain control of the Senate in the November elections. Political prognosticators are predicting very close races, and races are determined by dollars and feet on the ground, and there are four million sets of teacher “feet.”

The dissatisfaction with Obama/Duncan policies will be insignificant if the Republicans gain control of both houses of Congress. The Republicans will slash Title 1 dollars and other programs to support the poorest families and children, federal dollars would flow to charter and parochial schools and vouchers would be supported with federal dollars. Vouchers allow parents to choose schools: public, private, charter or parochial.

Legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act, filling federal and possible Supreme Court vacancies with ultra-conservative justices, changes in Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, and a change in the role of federal government would quickly pass through a Republican controlled Congress. The Republicans are committed to sharply cutting taxes and removing regulations confident that the marketplace will drive the economy.

There are Republicans who firmly believe that trickle-down economics, slash taxes, and the beneficiaries will spend the new found dollars and create jobs. Of course the beneficiaries are the wealthy and the cuts will impact the poorest Americans who depend upon federal supports.

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman lays it out in his NY Times column,

Two years ago Kansas embarked on a remarkable fiscal experiment: It sharply slashed income taxes without any clear idea of what would replace the lost revenue. Sam Brownback, the governor, proposed the legislation — in percentage terms, the largest tax cut in one year any state has ever enacted and Mr. Brownback predicted that the cuts would jump-start an economic boom

But Kansas isn’t booming — in fact, its economy is lagging both neighboring states and America as a whole. Meanwhile, the state’s budget has plunged deep into deficit, provoking a Moody’s downgrade of its debt.

There’s an important lesson here — but it’s not what you think. Yes, the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people.

What is so frustrating is that aside from Obama/Duncan there are so many Democrats who support educational policies that are not only foolish but counterproductive. Yes, I agree that education is a key, not the only key, to moving kids out of poverty, and, that teachers and school leaders can lead the path. To hear Duncan crow about a “great teacher in every classroom” is mind numbing.

Where are we going to find these “great” teachers?

Training teacher is both complex and controversial. How much of a prospective teacher’s training should be sitting in a traditional classroom, how much should be standing in front of a class of kids? Can we measure the effectiveness of college teacher preparation programs? And, if so, what metrics do you measure? Should the feds or state rank teacher preparation programs?

Do preservice required examinations (edTPA) predict teacher success?

Why do half of all teachers and 70% in high poverty middle schools quit within five years? Are the weak teachers quitting, or, are the best teachers quitting due to the lack of support?

Calling for Duncan’s resignation is futile; he is carrying out the policies of the Obama administration, and, sitting on your hands and not voting is actually a vote for those who want to dismantle public education.

We need a presidential candidate in 2016.

How about a strong woman who has proven herself as a leader?

No, not Hillary, maybe a Diane/Randi tag team.


4 responses to “Obama, Duncan, Frustration and the Race to Control the Senate, and, the Implications.

  1. Eric Nadelstern

    And why not Hillary?

    I remember that when she first announced for Senate from New York, she did it at UFT Headquarters. Is there a “strong woman” with better qualifications to be President?


  2. Well, Arne is more than a messenger.

    But I fully take the point that calls for resignations that won’t happen or won’t make a difference won’t fundamentally change things, but it’s an important message anyway. And Duncan or King’s welcome resignation would mean something and would change things to some degree.

    Anyway, here’s to looking forward:


  3. Great article


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