Teaching Profession

Teachers’ Unions Praise Duncan

By Vaishali Honawar — December 16, 2008 1 min read
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President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of Arne Duncan to lead the U.S. Department of Education is drawing lots of praise from just about everyone in education circles, and the teachers’ unions are not to be left behind.

Although Linda Darling-Hammond had appeared to be the unions’ top choice for the job, the two national unions today were quick to celebrate the presumptive new education secretary.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, praised Duncan for collaborating with the teachers’ union in his home turf, Chicago, and with other community partners “on various reform programs to help students with the greatest needs.”

“Duncan has shown a genuine commitment to what we see as the essential priorities for an incoming education secretary,” she added in a statement.

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel told the Washington Post that he was hopeful “Duncan could use his new position to move beyond ... failed [federal] policies, and provide every child with 21st-century skills.”

Even so, not all teachers in Chicago were celebrating. In fact, some told the Associated Press they were disappointed with Obama’s pick.

“I don’t believe Mr. Duncan’s model is a model for America,” Deborah Lynch, a former president of the Chicago Teachers Union and a high school teacher, said, taking issue with Duncan’s strong support for charter schools. She also accused him of dismantling the public school system on which many poor children depend.

Lynch’s criticism notwithstanding, it is true that Duncan has built a reputation of working collaboratively with teachers. But in the coming months, it should be interesting to see if indeed the national teachers’ unions and the reform-loving schools chief who supports charter schools and performance pay will make a happy team.

For more coverage of Duncan, read the Campaign K-12 blog.

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