There must be some kind of mistake...
Let me first say this: To a certain degree, I am looking at this from the outside in. In metro Atlanta, the more dominant union is NEA via its state affiliate, Georgia Association of Educators. However, it is fair to say that AFT President Randi Weingarten (biography) has become the face of the teachers unions on a national scale. Nevertheless, I have been monitoring her via TV news and online articles; and quite frankly, I have mixed views of how she is handling the current backlash of teachers and teachers unions in the heated education reform debate.
While the so-called experts on education reform (who fellow teacher-blogger Queens Teacher called them "ed deformers") has vilified her, Ms. Weingarten has striven to work with many of these ed deformers and has convinced skeptics, which are many within the AFT membership, to buy into some of the education reform tactics. For example, she had Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, a notorious ed deformer, to speak at the AFT National Convention this summer, despite a mixed reception during his speech. In addition, her state affiliate in Colorado supported the passing of a controversial bill on reforming teacher tenure. Recently, Ms. Weingarten, along with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, publicly announced upcoming plans for "a national education reform conference for labor-management collaboration", showcasing current efforts within major school districts of this taking place. Essentially, in her own way, Ms. Weingarten wants her AFT comrades and other educators to embrace reform. In her recent interview on NPR, Ms. Weingarten is pushing for more teacher involvement in the implementation of these education reform tactics and shared accountability for results, as she has reiterated in her recent piece on Huffington Post and in her rebuttal to Waiting for Superman that was highlighted on AJC's Get Schooled blog.. Nevertheless, she is portrayed as the chief dissent of education reform by the ed deformers:
But are AFT members and other educators pleased with Ms. Weingarten's efforts of embracing reform? Not all! In fact, below is a list of sources criticizing Ms. Weingarten and her performance as union leader in the one-sided education reform debate:
- Chris Lehmann, a school principal in Pennsylvania, expressed disappointment in Ms. Weingarten as she was apologizing for her stance against former DC school chancellor, Michelle Rhee, and for "a more inclusive vision of education reform" with administrators and others.
- According to the Education Notes Online blog, Ms. Weingarten was accused of interfering in local union elections in DC, in which she was pushing for the incumbent president, who negotiated the current, yet controversial contractual agreement with Ms. Rhee, to remain in office. Below is a video clip of Nathan Saunders, one of the candidates for local president, blasting Ms. Weingarten:
- Along with Keith Johnson, the unpopular leader of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, Ms. Weingarten has been labeled as a "sell out" for endorsing current education reform tactics and policies in Detroit public schools.
- Recently, the Baltimore Teachers Union, an local affiliate of AFT, voted against a contract, publicly supported by Ms. Weingarten via this press release, which embraces some education reform tactics.
- Ms. Weingarten can't let go apparently as she continues to be involved with her old post as former UFT President by advocating for what the ed deformers want in NYC.
What is the deal, Ms. Weingarten?
Lord knows she has a tough job as well as a tough fight against the ed deformers and their corporate backing. However, Ms. Weingarten, this is what YOU need to understand: The teachers and support personnel who are union members take their hard-earned money to pay their dues, expecting their interests to be heard and fought for. When some within your base questioned your leadership, there is something seriously wrong with that picture. Prior to reading the SocialistWorker.org's article, my views of Ms. Weingarten were pretty favorable. Upon reading the article, I was compelled to research further and my position has since changed. I understand the needs for teachers and teacher unions to make changes in our thinking to embrace current reform in education. What I don't understand is how a prominent union leader give in to these education reform tactics that undermine the teaching profession, and more importantly, the children we serve. To me and others, Ms. Weingarten, your talk doesn't match your walk!
Ms. Weingarten, help me to understand, because I will be watching your every move...