Teachers unions have turned on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration, creating a major divide in the Democratic Party coalition.
The largest teachers union in the country, the National Education Association (NEA), called for Duncan to resign at its convention on July 4, arguing his policies on testing have failed the nation’s schools.
Tensions between Duncan and the unions had been building for some time.
The administration’s Race to the Top program, which has provided $4.35 billion to states, incentivized changes that unions strongly oppose. One of the most controversial policies backed by Duncan is using students’ improvement on standardized tests to help evaluate teachers and make pay and tenure decisions.
“Our members are frustrated and angry,” said NEA president Dennis Van Roekel. “Number one is the toxic testing. There is too much.”
An added spark came on June 10, when a California judge ruled the state’s teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional because they keep ineffective teachers in the classroom and deprive poor and minority students of their right to an equal education.
Teachers unions, which are strong defenders of tenure, expressed outrage when Duncan said the plaintiffs in the case were just some of millions of students disadvantaged by tenure laws. He called the decision “a mandate to fix these problems.”
With the teachers unions at loggerheads with the administration, Democrats are suddenly at risk of losing one of their most reliable allies and fundraising sources.
It would appear that when it comes to crucial issues of “tenure” and “teacher performance”, Duncan is surprisingly more right than left. On the flip side, he supports the implementation of the controversial Common Core “teaching standards”, which the right strongly opposes and even a growing number of left wing educators have issues with. If Duncan starts to become too much more of a liability for our celebrity President, look for him to “resign to spend more time with family” in the very near future …