— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 7, 2014
While President Obama’s former spokesman, Robert Gibbs, manages a national public relations campaign against teachers unions, the National Education Association (NEA) has finally decided it has had enough of Team Obama’s union busting. The NEA has now called on Education Secretary Arne Duncan to resign.
Duncan was a controversial appointment from the start. A Chicago machine hack at heart, Duncan constantly regurgitated right wing talking points on public education and sought to help privatize public schools despite non-existent evidence that doing would improve public education. His appointment to lead the Department of Education was a clear signal from Obama that he planned to once again do the bidding of wealthy contributors – who have commercial and ideological interests in vilifying teachers – instead of fighting for the public interest of educating our children.
But Duncan may have made a misstep when he publicly supported a court decision in California that destroyed teacher tenure and job protections, a shill too far?
Delegates of the National Education Association adopted a business item July 4 at its annual convention in Denver that called for his resignation. The vote underscores the long-standing tension between the Obama administration and teachers’ unions — historically a steadfast Democratic ally.
A tipping point for some members was Duncan’s statement last month in support of a California judge’s ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for the state’s public school teachers. In harsh wording, the judge said such laws harm particularly low-income students by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire.
Though it is unlikely Duncan will resign, the call for his resignation from the NEA may be a turning point for the teachers unions who have largely refused to substantively push back against the privatization agenda that Obama has been pushing for five years. Unions typically go light on Democrats which is one of the reasons privatizers do everything they can to use them in their fight to wreck public schools.
The policies of “education reformers” – charter schools, merit pay, vouchers, drill and kill testing to evaluate teachers – that Duncan has promoted have consistently proved not to work. Though the reformers/privatizers constantly point to America’s poor rankings compared to other developed countries, none of those superior countries have adopted the policies the privatizers are promoting, in fact, most have strong unions and lots of public investment and control. So it is a rather strange argument to make, isn’t it?
Nonetheless, it is well past time for teachers to start educating corporate Democrats as to what happens when you try to destroy public education.