Teaching Profession

Will AFT Call For Sec. Duncan’s Removal?

By Stephen Sawchuk — July 11, 2014 1 min read
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Los Angeles

In her “state of the union” address, AFT President Randi Weingarten announced a new grant program to help affiliates deal with the common core, noted that the union had posted higher membership numbers, and praised a new Democratic political group to support public education and counter Democrats-in-name-only.

But the big question everyone wants to know about, and it’s unanswered so far, is whether the AFT will join its sister union, the National Education Association, in calling for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to step down.

Weingarten, in her address, stopped short of urging it, though she had tough words for Duncan: “We need a secretary of education who walks our walk, and who fights our fight for the tools and resources we need to help children. And we are deeply disappointed that this Department of Education has not lived up to this standard.”

Reporters pressed Weingarten during a press conference about the possibility of a resolution. She elaborated that she wanted such a resolution to come from delegates, not from leadership.

“If it came from us, all of you would be saying it was political,” she said. “It’s in the members’ hands and there has been a lot of conversation in and outside the rooms whether or not we should, we shouldn’t.”

In an interview, California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt confirmed to me that his delegates are working on language relating to Duncan. He wouldn’t specify whether it would call for the secretary’s ouster, a vote of no confidence, or something else. The union definitely wants him gone, though.

“At this point, he is completely out of touch with teachers,” he said. “He should go back to playing basketball.”

There is a major catch-22 in any such effort, though, because as I’ve written before, any such move would have to pass muster with the union’s major voting bloc, Unity, and it isn’t clear where it stands on this topic. Stay tuned.

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