Teaching Profession

Rep. George Miller and the NEA: Round Two

By Stephen Sawchuk — September 30, 2009 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

I’ve covered enough hearings on the Hill to know that they can range in interest from complete snooze-fests to eyebrow-raising soap operas.

Fortunately, today’s hearing on the teacher-equity provisions in the economic-stimulus bill and the No Child Left Behind Act ended up being pretty engaging—at least to those of you who, like me, are unabashed nerds about the complicated politics of crafting teacher policy.

First off, most of what was discussed has been discussed before, and it’s certainly graced many a page of Education Week. Witnesses, for instance, talked about teacher-student data firewalls, about the inadequacy of evaluation systems, and about the teacher-distribution requirements in the stimulus.

Republican members again pushed for the Teacher Incentive Fund, a federal performance-pay program: Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a witness, introduced today—for the third time—an authorization of the TIF program, which has been funded since 2006 but never set down in law.

Democrats talked a lot about teacher mentoring, and they directed most of their questions to National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel while dodging the controversial statements about collective-bargaining contracts made by several of the other witnesses.

All of that sounds strictly by the books, right? Well, what ended up making this hearing particularly interesting was that it pushed to the surface the very complicated relationship between House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and the NEA.

Fairly early on in this hearing, Rep. Miller made a particular point to note two items in Van Roekel’s testimony, which was mostly drawn from the union’s new report. In that report, as I noted here, the NEA said it would support union locals through the TIF. It was the first time the union ever really affirmed the program, which requires student achievement to be considered in making bonus-pay decisions.

Van Roekel’s testimony also stated that the union would request every affiliate enter into a “memorandum of understanding” with districts to waive contract language that could prohibit the distribution of effective teachers.

You may remember the Great Performance-Pay Smackdown of 2007, when Miller and then-NEA President Reg Weaver during a hearing traded barbs about whether or not the NEA had reneged on its support for a performance-pay program.

Today, Chairman Miller made it very clear that he considers the NEA as being on record as saying it will support TIF and the waiver of some contract elements.

As if to underscore the point, Mr. Miller reiterated to reporters after the hearing that he views the NEA as having affirmatively shifted its stance in those areas. “I think it’s a major step for the NEA; I think it’s very constructive,” he said. “They have reached out to the future on this discussion and this subject.” And in a release from the committee, he added that the NEA testimony came as “a very important signal from NEA that represents a significant departure from their historical position.”

At another point in the hearing, in response to questions from the committee members, Van Roekel said he didn’t think it was appropriate to use “a single test score” in making decisions about teachers. The phrase really seemed to raise the hackles of Rep. Miller, who jumped in with this speech:

“There is nothing in the Race to the Top that says that a test score would have to be the sole factor in evaluations, so let’s clear the air on that. It’s simply not the fact,” Miller expounded. “There was nothing in the TEACH Act [a 2005 Miller-introduced bill], nothing in the [2007 NCLB] discussion draft. .... I think that it’s a real disservice to the administration [to claim otherwise] because Education Secretary Arne Duncan is trying to broaden that discussion.”

Now, to be fair to the NEA, a number of Miller’s own committee members, both Republican and Democrat, also talked about the use of test scores in evaluations as if they were the only factor.

Still, the larger point stands. And that is that after everything that went down in 2007, George Miller wants the NEA to back up words with real action.

Photos: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., left; National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, right.

Photo Credit: Andrew Councill for Education Week

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.


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
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
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

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

Teaching Profession Opinion ‘A Culture of Care’: How Schools Can Alleviate Educator Stress This Year
It takes more than deep breathing to alleviate the stress teachers feel. Here's how to get to the root cause.
Sean Slade & Alyssa Gallagher
6 min read
shutterstock 740616958 resized
Shutterstock
Teaching Profession Reported Essay Students Aren’t the Only Ones Grieving
Faced with so many losses stemming from the pandemic, what can be done to help teachers manage their own grief?
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Teaching Profession We Feel Your Grief: Remembering the 1,000 Plus Educators Who've Died of COVID-19
The heartbreaking tally of lives lost to the coronavirus continues to rise and take a steep toll on school communities.
3 min read
090321 1000 Educators Lost BS
Education Week
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Educators Have a Responsibility to Support the Common Good
A science teacher responds to another science teacher's hesitation to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
1 min read