The Teachers and the Educational Support Professionals attending the National Education Association’s annual Representative Assembly in Denver, the first week of July, voted to ask for the resignation of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Last week the American Federation of Teachers followed suit.
It seems the rank-and-file members of the NEA are becoming increasingly frustrated, borderline angry at the educational policies being pushed by Duncan, supported by President Obama, and in Ohio, mandated by Governor Kasich.
When the Representative Assembly opened, a short video message from President Obama welcomed the teachers and ESPs to the annual meeting and thanked them for their hard and important work. When the video ended the NEA members in attendance gave a respectful but halfhearted round of applause.
A few days later the same group voted to ask for the Presidential appointees’ resignation. While the President and Secretary Duncan talk about valuing educators, their actions scream otherwise and the teachers are seeing that President Obama’s education policies are no different, and in some cases worse, than President Bush’s No Child Left Behind.
The NEA members are at their breaking point. The tipping point for the resignation call was probably Duncan’s support for the recent Vergara v. California ruling, which deems teacher tenure unconstitutional, and means a teacher can no longer openly advocate for their students if they are in disagreement with their administrators.
The stressors placed on teachers that directly impact their classrooms such as the number of high-stakes tests, the amount of time needing to prepare for those tests, data-for-the-sake-of-data-collection, an exhausting and impractical evaluation system using value-added, and a completely botched rollout of the national Common Core curriculum has most teachers wondering if their noble choice of profession was worth it.
Add to these unproven “fixes” the indirect strains caused by failing charter schools being awarded locally voted tax dollars, school vouchers, the privatization of our ESP services, and a ludicrous school report card system, and there is the recipe to make any dedicated and compassionate teacher want to run for the hills.
The NEA members know what’s going on. They know an increase in testing does not equate to an increase in leaning. (NEA Executive Committee member Earl Wiman says, “You don’t fatten a pig by weighing it more.”) They know that after 12 years of Presidents Bush’s No Child Left Behind, which has been propelled by Duncan’s Race to the Top, our children are worse off, not better.
The members know that Duncan is listening to the corporate reformers like Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, the Walton Foundation and the Pearson lobbying machine instead of the experienced teachers dealing with unprecedented increases in poverty, autism, and dysfunctional home lives.
They know the Corporate Education Reformers are in the game to make a profit, not better a child’s life.
It took the NEA a while, but it seems the marriage between the NEA and the wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing-Democrats is eroding… and quickly. The teachers and ESPs who are in the trenches, the ones who are seeing the harmful effects of the corporate education policies on the children they teach are standing up for their students.
The call for Duncan’s resignation may just be the first step.
Kevin Griffin is an arts/technology teacher. He previously served as president of the Dublin Educators’ Association.
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