by Mercedes Schneider | New post on deutsch29 blog /http://bit.ly/1mOAPwcJuly 14, 2014 :: I'm wondering what of substance was accomplished thus far at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) national convention in Los Angeles July 11-14, 2014.
On July 13, 2014, AFT was supposed to consider asking for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's resignation. The National Education Association (NEA) passed a resolution on July 4, 2014, asking Duncan to resign. However, as education historian Diane Ravitch points out, Duncan is only following the orders of President Obama:
I can personally vouch for the fact that Duncan is doing exactly what Obama wants. In the fall of 2009, I had a private meeting with Secretary Duncan, just the two of us, no staff. It was very pleasant. He was charming, pleasant, and took notes. I asked him, “Why are you traveling the country to sell Race to the Top accompanied by Reverend Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich? Why Gingrich?” His answer: “because the President asked me to.”
Thus, asking Duncan to resign-- while a refreshing thought-- is no solution. Obama would just fill the slot with another yes-man.
It sure would be nice if a national union would aggressively confront the pro-privatization education agenda emanating from the Oval Office.
But no. AFT decided upon a watered-down version of the NEA resolution: AFT resolved to ask Obama to put Duncan on a remediation plan:
The American Federation of Teachers approved a resolution this afternoon calling for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to resign if he does not improve under a plan to be implemented by President Barack Obama.
The “improvement plan” would include the requirement that Duncan enact the funding and equity recommendations of the Equity Commission’s “Each and Every Child” report; change the No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top “test-and-punish” accountability system to a “support-and-improve” model; and “promote rather than question” teachers and school staff.
Duncan is following Obama's education plan, and AFT wants Obama to remediate Duncan.
On to another Wonderlandish AFT outcome: It is no surprise to anyone familiar with the pull of New York's Unity Caucus (and familiar with the national-level version, the Progressive Caucus) that after 40 minutes of open floor debate on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), AFT delegates voted by two-thirds majority to continue to support CCSS-- even though now, AFT maintains CCSS has been "corrupted":
The AFT will also consider a resolution — drafted by its executive council — asserting that the promise of the Common Core has been corrupted by political manipulation, administrative bungling, corporate profiteering and an invalid scoring system designed to ensure huge numbers of kids fail the new math and language arts exams that will be rolled out next spring.
So what is the AFT decision? Keep the corrupted CCSS and offer "grants" to pacify teachers into believing they have influence over what the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) owns.
Regarding the AFT five-years-too-late "grant plan," CCSSO offered no comment upon Politico's request.
CCSS was completed four years ago, in June 2010. Now, in July 2014, AFT admits CCSS has problems-- but it still wants to remain married to CCSS.
In March 2014, Weingarten told CCSSO that she planned to support CCSS no matter the AFT member pushback in July:
Weingarten added that she expects that many of her members would call for outright opposition to the standards during the AFT's summer convention, even though both the AFT and NEA support the standards and Weingarten said she wouldn't back away from the common core. [Emphasis added.]
Weingarten will promote a resolution stating that CCSS is "corrupted," and she will support grants for teachers to rewrite a CCSS that was finished in 2010 and over which she has no direct control regarding revision. And never mind the fixed nature of CCSS, which purposely makes it ever-suited to national marketing (including potential, nationwide standardized testing). But she will not forsake CCSS, nothing doing.
She kept her word to CCSSO. That must be worth something in her world.
In my world, it's just another pensive facial expression and tilt of my head.
Delegates to any union convention – especially one where an election of leadership is involved – are pre-committed to a slate and the slates are committed to an agenda. This AFT Convention was a pitched political battle between Weingarten and the CCSS vs. the forces opposed to CCSS. The opposition was motivated by the beauty+passion+truth of their argument – but Weingarten and the Stay-the-Coursers had done their homework. They had a strategy and had counted their votes. And hen the time was right and the rabble was roused they had the bomb-disposal-unit speakers standing by at Microphone #4. ”I commend my sister for her eloquence and passion, but…..”
President Weingarten, Candidate-for-Reelection Weingarten and Convention Chair Weingarten were of such conflicted interest that to pretend at fairness would be a challenge to Merrill Streep.
In fairness to Randi, she did a fair job at the acting part if not the fairness. Her slate (The New York Local #2 Unity Caucus) is committed to the CCSS Lite – she drank that Kool Aid long ago. The Chicago Local #1 based opposition, (which has a nicer official name – but BadAssTeachers is how they are known) were vocal and loud and potentially convincing – but the convention rules were not in their favor. The the Chair’s eagerness to record the “Yea” standing-counts as winners before the “Nay” vote was taken was obvious.
Randi has been an effective leader for moderation in the national CCSS debate – but to play the moderate she needs the support of her membership.
And moderation has not been an all-that-effective a strategy as the forces of ®eform, Inc. seize upon all compromise as Victory.
So Arne Duncan and the Common Core State Standards were given one more chance. Maybe they’ll learn to read in the fifth grade; maybe they’ll learn their multiplication tables in the seventh. Social Promotion is social injustice.
When Randi Weingarten first came into prominence she did so as the newly minted UFT president in New York City (UFT is AFT Local #2) when she negotiated a compromise contract with Mayor Bloomberg. UFT had not had a good relationship with the previous Mayor (Mayor Giuliani – but no one did!) and the new UFT leadership hoped to appease new Mayor Bloomberg – How could he be worse? Bloomberg proved himself 1000% worse; that contract was a disaster for UFT and a victory for Bloomberg. While Weingarten drank Mayor Bloomberg+Joel Klein’s Kool Aid the forces of ®eform, Inc. ate UFT’s lunch.
But somehow Weingarten survived …and in union politics surviving is the same as winning.. She will be reelected AFT President today and a wedge will be further driven between progressives and not-so-progressives in AFT …and between the AFT and the NEA. And that infighting will serve Duncan and Gates and Broad and Walton and Co.