MergerTalk By NEAFT Caucus Chair Morty Rosenfeld
TIME TO MAKE A UNITED STAND
Are you as tired as I am of the AFT and
NEA desperately stretching the credulity of our members to attempt to
accommodate the Obama administration’s education policies?
Surely our national leaders know that the administration’s proposed
modification to the ESEA and its Race to the Top program stand no conceivable
chance to significantly improve the education of
Thus, we made nice to the administration on their Race to the Top
program, disagreeing with elements of it, but claiming that we supported its
underlying principles. What did that
get us from the administration? It
brought us their support for the mass firings in
Meanwhile, as we have been busy appeasing them, others have begun to push
back. The April 4 New York Times
reported that many of the nation’s governors are
losing enthusiasm for the Race to the Top program and are considering not
applying for the second round. To
Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado, the scoring by the administration of RTTT
applications was “…like the Olympic Games, and we were an American skater
with a Soviet judge from the 1980s,” Some
states, admittedly mostly red ones, are beginning to see that the goal of the
administration is to lure them into surrendering their autonomy in education
matters for the federal dollars that are winnable in the high stakes education
game for which the Feds have written the new rules.
Some have lifted their caps on charter schools, rewritten their
regulations to permit the evaluation of teachers based on the scores of their
students on standardized tests and still haven’t gotten any money.
Some states appear to have been marked down because there was not
“sufficient” support from their state or local unions.
Hard as it seems for us to believe, the people running our government
don’t appear to care any more about what union members think than the previous
administration that was at least honest about its contempt for us. Rather
than struggling to compete for who can disagree with the administration in the
least offensive way, why not galvanize the discontent of our membership with the
Obama education policy and start
speaking truth to power with one united voice.
With public education under attack from administration we helped put in office, it’s time to put away the issues that have keep us apart and begin to use our energy to protect public education and our membership. There will be no appeasing people who support the mass firing of teachers in failing schools. There’s no negotiating with them around the margins of the kind of disastrous proposals they bring to the table. It’s time to realize that we’re in for a terrible fight but one that can be won if we as NEA and AFT members will focus on what unites us rather than what keeps us apart. It will be won when we cease being satisfied with pious platitudes about the importance of teachers and demand that we be treated as though we are really worth something. It will be won when the close to four million members a merged national union could have are led to understand the power they could have if they would stop their defeatist moaning and groaning and challenge this administration and all enemies of public education.