AFT’s Weingarten Joins NEA In Criticism Of Duncan


The AP (7/13, Blood) reports that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said Friday that Education Secretary Duncan “has turned his back on the concerns of educators and parents, but she stopped short of calling for his ouster.” The criticism follows Duncan’s comments last month in support of a California court ruling “that struck down tenure and other job protections for the state’s public school teachers,” and follows years of tensions over Duncan’s support for charter schools and for using student test scores as part of teacher evaluations. Earlier this month, the National Education Association called on Duncan to resign. The AP quotes ED spokeswoman Dorie Nolt saying, “Secretary Duncan has said before that he doesn’t get involved in union politics. He is hopeful that after AFT wraps up their meeting, he and the organization can continue to work together to prepare all students for college, careers and life.”

        The Hill (7/12, Sullivan) wrote that “with the teachers unions at loggerheads with the administration, Democrats are suddenly at risk of losing one of their most reliable allies and fundraising sources.”

        Valerie Strauss wrote in the Washington Post (7/14, Strauss) “Answer Sheet” blog that Education Secretary Duncan’s relations “with the country’s largest teachers unions – which collectively have more than 4 million members – keep getting worse.” While delegates to the American Federation of Teachers convention this weekend did not join the National Education Association’s earlier call for Duncan’s resignation, the AFT “urged President Obama to put Duncan on an ‘improvement plan’” and said Duncan should leave if he does not change. Strauss says the “obvious hitch” is that Obama “hasn’t shown a single sign that he disagrees with Duncan’s education reform agenda.”

        Politico (7/14, Grasgreen) reported that the AFT’s “‘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.”

        Stephen Sawchuk writes at the Education Week (7/14) “TeacherBeat” blog that the union “passed a resolution Sunday calling on President Barack Obama to put U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on an ‘improvement plan,’ and demand his resignation if he doesn’t change positions the union deems harmful.” Sawchuk considers whether the AFT’s resolution is stronger or weaker than the recent anti-Duncan resolution from the NEA, noting that “the AFT makes it explicit that the buck for the education secretary ultimately stops with the person who appointed him—President Obama.” The Los Angeles Times (7/14, Blume) also covers this story.

        NPR (7/14, Westervelt) runs a Q&A with Weingarten in its “NprEd” blog. Topics include teachers’ frustration over such issues as the California tenure ruling, Common Core implementation, and evaluations, along with calls for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to step down.

Duncan, Teachers Unions Spar Over California Tenure Ruling


Bloomberg BusinessWeek (6/17) reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan “was scorned last week by teachers union leaders and their supporters for applauding a California judge’s tentative ruling that the state’s teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional.” The article notes that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten “chastised Duncan in an open letter for failing to defend California’s tenure rules,” and reports that “education writer Diane Ratvich...went further, posting Duncan’s statement on the ruling on her website and arguing that it sounded like the words of a Republican.”

Duncan Comments On Teacher Tenure Ruling


Bloomberg News (6/16, Staiti) reports on comments by Education Secretary Arne Duncan regarding a California judge’s decision to end the state’s teacher tenure laws, calling it a “broken status quo” in need of reform. “The decision affirmed the fundamental duty to ensure that all students, regardless of zip code, family income or skin color, receive a quality education – starting with an effective teacher,” Duncan said in a statement. He added, “It took enormous courage for 10th-grader Beatriz Vergara and her eight co-plaintiffs to stand up and demand change to a broken status quo. It’ll take courage from all of us to come to consensus on new solutions.” According to Bloomberg, Duncan also said he advocates tenure after a “meaningful” span of time, and that performance should dictate layoffs rather than seniority.

        Duncan Reflects On “Right Lessons” From California Teacher Tenure Ruling. The Washington Post (6/16, Strauss) reports in its “Answer Sheet” blog that Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Sunday issued a new statement “offering what he thinks are the ‘right lessons’” in the Vergara case, “in which a Los Angeles judge tossed out state statutes giving job protections to teachers.” Duncan put forth what he thinks are the “right lessons” from the case. In his statement on Sunday, Duncan “said that ‘tenure itself is not the issue here’ and that he ‘absolutely’ supports ‘job security for effective teachers,’ but he still praised the verdict as the right one in this case.” Duncan “said he hopes the verdict doesn’t lead to a long period in which the case is appealed by teachers unions (which will certainly happen) and for more such lawsuits to be filed in other states by those seeking to reduce union power (which will certainly happen).”