As federal Education Department officials move closer to announcing the winning states in the second-round “Race to the Top” grant competition, much has been made of the varying buy-in from state teacher unions. State chapters were singled out as the first stakeholders whose support would be evaluated within the program’s overall selection criteria.
Last week’s National Education Association no-confidence vote in Race to the Top (in a reportedly tight vote) illustrated the challenge for hopeful reformers: as this collection of recent statements by teacher union officials illustrates, their vision of education reform forms a pattern that diverges sharply from that of most reformers, despite efforts by many union heads to portray a new, reform-friendly attitude:
• “The only people who can improve our public schools are professional educators. We want to put business in its place and out of our schools.” Karen Lane, President, Chicago Teachers Union (American Federation of Teachers affiliate),Chicago Tribune, June 12, 2010.
• “Mostly what we’ve seen out of this Administration is a top-down, put-your-thumb-on-somebody kind of philosophy, and it’s aroused more frustration around federal education policy than I’ve ever seen.” Earl Wiman, President, Tennessee Education Association, The New York Times, July 4, 2010.
• “I don’t know whether it’s being wasted or not,” said Phil Rumore, President, Buffalo Teachers Federation, on funding for charter schools. “The only thing I do know, they’re draining millions more from us.” The Capitol (NY), June 2, 2010.
• “Local school boards should be the only entity that can grant or renew charter applications.” National Education Association Resolution, 2009-10.
• “You [New Jersey Governor Chris Christie] are determined to demonize and destroy the middle class workers who built this great state.” NJEA President Barbara Keshishian, May 22, 2010.
• “The Association also believes that local affiliates should. . . negotiate policies that exclude performance evaluation from consideration in the RIF (reductions in force) process,” National Education Association Resolution, 2009-10.
• “We’re for measuring achievement on a progress basis, but we should in no way let student test scores determine our salaries,” Angie Clevinger, Virginia Education Association News, May 2010.
• “If we truly want to reform education and provide a highly qualified and certified teacher in every classroom, then our number one priority should be increasing teacher salaries.” American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia White Paper, June 2010
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