Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

Playing Politics at Teachers’ Union Conventions

By Lauren Camera — July 15, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

My colleagues over at Teacher Beat, Stephen Sawchuk and Liana Heitin, crushed coverage of the recent National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers annual conferences. Since we’re heading into the midterm election season, it’s no surprise that both the NEA and the AFT played some political hardball.

Here’s a wrap-up of all the politics-related news to come out of the conventions that you should know about. (Big shout-out to Sawchuk and Heitin for their A-plus reporting.)

First, both unions ripped U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, slamming his leadership and education-policy agenda and passing resolutions that called for his resignation. At the NEA convention, which was Dennis van Roekel’s last as president, members passed a resolution that called for Duncan’s resignation effective immediately. As Sawchuk and Heitin astutely point out, similarly themed resolutions were introduced at the 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010 meetings, but have never before passed.

Following suit, the AFT passed a resolution called on President Barack Obama to put Duncan on an “improvement plan,” and demand his resignation if he doesn’t change positions the union deems harmful.

Both of these moves come on the heels of union anger over moves across the United States to revise due-process protections, tenure, and seniority—some of which have been supported by Democrats, including the Obama administration through its Race to the Top competition and waiver program. The AFT delegates outlined a laundry list of complaints against Duncan. They included, as Sawchuk reported, calling out Duncan for creating Race to the Top, which incentivized states to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores; Duncan’s support for the recent Vergara v. California equity-lawsuit ruling, which declared certain teacher protections unconstitutional in California; and his support of planned teacher firings in Central Falls, R.I., in 2010.

The AFT also slammed the Obama administration’s backing of accountability systems that include value-added data, in a resolution that called value-added measures and student-growth percentiles “fundamentally flawed.” Specifically, the AFT called for maintaining the disaggregated test-score reporting of the No Child Left Behind Act, but eliminating the required annual testing of every student in grades 3-8, as that law now stipulates. Instead, they delegates voted to support a sampling methodology akin to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Similarly, the NEA passed a policy statement against allowing value-added and test-score data to be used in teacher evaluations or to support any type of employment action.

Sawchuk also did some pretty impressive deep dives into both unions’ financial spending habits (the most recent filings represent the time period from September 1, 2012 to August 31, 2013). Notably, the AFT spent $28.3 million on political activities and lobbying while the NEA spent a whopping $44.8 million.

Finally, a new political organization streamed onto the scene during the AFT’s conference. Democratic strategist Donna Brazile unveiled Democrats for Public Education, which she will co-chair along with former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. There’s not a whole lot of information available yet about the organization, but AFT President Randi Weingarten’s introduction of it pretty much cements it in the teachers’ unions’ camp:

The promise of America is being undercut by people who devote their fortunes to decreasing our strength, to advancing the politics of division, and to promoting economic policies that redistribute more income to fewer people. And they've been aided and abetted by some lawmakers, judges and even some Democrats. Some—like those who call themselves Democrats for Education Reform—mimic the Jeb Bushes and Eli Broads of the world, promoting competition and test-obsession. But a new group of Democrats is emerging: the Democrats for Public Education, led by Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Donna Brazile, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who want to stand up for our students, for our educators and for public education."


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Education Department Opens Civil Rights Probes in 5 States That Ban School Mask Mandates
The move on behalf of students with disabilities deepens the fight over masks between the Biden administration and GOP governors.
4 min read
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles on April 13, 2021.
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles in April 2021.
Jae C. Hong/AP