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.

Every Student Succeeds Act

Randi Weingarten on Clinton, Trump, and Winning Over ‘Skeptical’ Teachers

By Alyson Klein — September 22, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, is very enthusiastic about the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton. And the vast majority of her members are also behind the Democratic nominee, she said, even though some are wary that Clinton may be too much like President Barack Obama when it comes to K-12.

“Our members are no different than other Americans in terms of having a skepticism about politics these days,” said Weingarten, whose union endorsed Clinton in the Democratic primary, even though some of its members wanted more consideration for her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Obama pushed policies early in his tenure that were really unpopular with a lot of teachers, including teacher evaluation tied to test scores and dramatic school turnarounds, Weingarten said over drinks with reporters Wednesday night.

Weingarten, who is one of Clinton’s top education advisers, gave Obama credit for figuring out, albeit “six or seven years” into his presidency, that he had contributed to “the testing fixation” and for helping to right the ship by signing the Every Student Succeeds Act, which allows states to dial back the role of tests in accountability.

But Obama’s early initiatives have meant Clinton has had some work to do with teachers.

“People are skeptical because the policies [he enacted] through Race to the Top actually worked as they were intended and they made schools into testing factories,” Weingarten said. “People are skeptical because they want to know that it’s going to be different.”

Clinton is good at making her case when she speaks to members in person, Weingarten said.

“When you hear her actually talk about education—K-12, because she’s talked about pre-K and college more—but when you hear her actually talk about K-12 and you engage with her on that, people who don’t know her, like I’ve known her for twenty-five years, see how much she knows and how real she is and how she has a very different sense of what to do on public education than the president did,” Weingarten said. “But you have to earn that and frankly, what we’re seeing in terms of our members is that when you talk to them, they get it and they are overwhelmingly supporting her and it’s [really] a matter of getting them out to vote.”

AFT in Action

And she said that teachers are willing to lend Clinton’s campaign effort a hand.

“Our volunteer numbers are better today than in 2012,” she said. “There were thousands of volunteers even in the primary” and more excitement as the general election draws closer. (AFT couldn’t immediately produce numbers comparing this year’s volunteer stats to the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. We’ll update this post when we get more information.)

AFT has also joined with a bunch of other unions, including the National Education Association, to create For Our Future, a political action committee, Weingarten said. More on the organization here.

“Dangerous” Donald Trump

Weingarten really, really doesn’t want to see real estate mogul Donald Trump, the GOP nominee, elected in November. She called him “dangerous.” And she really hates his key K-12 proposal, which calls for taking $20 billion in federal K-12 money from some unspecified pot and allowing states to use it to create vouchers.

“It is cynical. It is vapid,” she said. “It is basically saying, I don’t really want to have public education.”

And she’s hearing from teachers about a “Trump effect.” The GOP nominee’s tough immigration talk, has some Latino kids worried they or their parents might be deported, she said. See more about her thoughts about Trump and the election here.

No on Keeping King

Also, Weingarten clearly doesn’t think Potential President Clinton should keep U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. at the helm of the department if she wins in November.

“I think she needs a new education secretary who is someone who is in sync with, assuming she gets elected, the things that she has been talking about, which is making sure that public education works for all kids,” Weingarten said. “Public education has to have credibility for working for people, for working for kids.”

Weingarten would not say who she thought should be Clinton’s education secretary. But she made it very clear she not interested in the job herself, and said any rumors to the contrary are “ridiculous.”


Follow us on Twitter at @PoliticsK12.

Related Tags:

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
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

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

Every Student Succeeds Act Republicans Tell Miguel Cardona His Plan for ESSA Waivers Seems to Violate the Law
The Every Student Succeeds Act doesn't permit the education secretary to seek certain data he's asking for, the two GOP lawmakers say.
4 min read
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, left, listens as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, center, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, left, listens as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, center, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Every Student Succeeds Act How Will ESSA Hold Up During COVID-19? Pandemic Tests the Law's Resilience
Lawmakers designed ESSA to limit mandates covering issues like how tests are used. Will that affect how well the law survives the pandemic?
6 min read
Every Student Succeeds Act Betsy DeVos Tells States Not to Expect Waivers From Annual Tests
The tests required by federal law are crucial to helping schools respond to the coronavirus pandemic and help vulnerable students, the education secretary said in a letter to chief state school officers.
3 min read
Every Student Succeeds Act Top DeVos Deputy: Our 'Instinct' Is to Not Give States Testing Waivers Next Year
"Accountability aside, we need to know where students are so we can address their needs," Assistant Secretary of Education Jim Blew said during remarks at the Education Writers Association's National Seminar.
3 min read