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‘New’ Voice Speaks About Teachers at Convention

By Michele McNeil — August 25, 2008 1 min read
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The teachers’ unions weren’t the only voices representing teachers on the first night of the Democratic National Convention.

Enter Jon Schnur.

The CEO of the reform group New Leaders for New Schools, also an adviser to Barack Obama’s campaign, got a prime seat on the stage of the Democratic National Convention Monday night during the first of three American town halls.

The 15-minute town hall meeting managed to cram in issues including health care, tax reform, and education.

Schnur tackled a very broad question from a Philadelphia mom who was piped in on video, who wanted to know how Obama would reform schools. Schnur basically recited Obama’s education platform in lightning speed, but emphasized the Illinois senator’s plan to recruit and retain effective teachers with the goal of getting the best teachers in schools where our students need them the most. Schnur, and his school reform group that trains school administrators, are more open than the teachers’ unions are to ideas such as merit pay.

Schnur’s appearance followed speeches by National Education Association President Reg Weaver, a boisterous and verbose speaker who managed to come close to his three-minute time limit, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who ended up running over on her time limit by about 64 seconds.

Weaver, who leaves office on Sept. 1, in his speech shortly after 5 p.m., got some good applause (bolstered by people banging together their inflatable thundersticks the NEA handed out at its luncheon earlier today), when he said: “He knows we must hold schools accountable. But that the world is too complex and diverse to judge students by a single, multiple choice, and high stakes test.”

The NEA dragged its feet in endorsing a candidate for president, but is now fully behind Obama.

Weingarten, in her first big speech in the political arena as the new AFT president, didn’t mention that her union endorsed Obama’s opponent in the Democratic primaries, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. There were only good things to say about Obama. Weingarten said: “Barack Obama knows teachers must be partners, not pawns, in federal education policy.”

--Michele McNeil

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