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NEA demands Arne Duncan's resignation

[Editor's Note: Teachers know that teacher unions are not junkets, but even with that reality the National Education Association's Representative Assemblies are hard working almost to a surprising amount. And so while most of us were celebrating the Fourth of July, the NEA was adding a new footnote to the words "Independence Day" by demanding that Arne Duncan resign. As Americans woke up on July 5 to the stunning silence following a day of fireworks and sports, the news from Denver was equally stunning. George N. Schmidt, Editor, Substance].

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Arne Duncan was probably expecting that everyone at the December 17, 2008 meeting of the Board of Education would be swapping hugs and cheers for him. After all, The New York Times that morning had Duncan on its front page, posing with Barack Obama in an advertisement for the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL). Obama had just announced that Duncan would become U.S. Secretary of Education in the Obama administration, and the Chicago photo op was part of the plan to expand the neoliberal attack on the nation's public schools from Chicago to every state in the USA. Many people still were conned by all that audacious hope that had brought tears to the eyes of millions in November 2008, when Obama walked out on to a carefully prepared stage in Chicago's Grant Park after winning the presidential election. Duncan's anger became great as the December 17 Board meeting progressed an a large number of teachers, parents, and students took the floor to criticize Duncan's hypocrisy, especially the "Renaissance 2010" program which was attacking the city's public school and privatizing as much as possible even before Duncan got to Washington to launch "Race To The Top" for the Obama administration in January 2009. Above, Duncan was photographed by Substance just before he walked out of the meeting briefly rather than flash his infamous anger at CORE leader Jackson Potter, who was speaking at the time (see next photo). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.FROM EDUCATION WEEK:

NEA Calls for Secretary Duncan's Resignation. By Liana Heitin on July 4, 2014 7:57 PM. By Liana Heitin and Stephen Sawchuk

Denver

Delegates to the National Education Association's annual convention passed a new business item July 4 calling for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to resign.

The surprising move comes on the heels of union anger over moves across the United States to revise due-process protections, tenure, and seniority—some of which have been supported by Democrats, including the Obama administration.

Proposed by the union's powerful California affiliate, the item cites "the Department's failed education agenda focused on more high-stakes testing, grading and pitting public school students against each other based on test scores" as its rationale for demanding the secretary's resignation. Similarly themed items were introduced at the 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010 meetings, but have never before passed. (The union did, in 2011, approve an NBI severely chastising Duncan.)

In addition, the California Teachers Association has had an ax to grind with the secretary since he commented on the Vergara v. California ruling, which found that the state's tenure law violated student rights.

Duncan seemed to support the decision, though his statement on it was not a hearty endorsement. Instead, he said that the groups should work together to rewrite the laws. After backlash from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, the secretary went out of his way to flesh out his opinion on Vergara in a blog post. NEA has had a tense relationship with the Obama administration, and it's unclear how exactly this aggressive move will affect the union.

CORE leader Jackson Potter got under the skin of then Chicago schools "Chief Executive Officer" Arne Duncan during the public participation portion of the December 17, 2008 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Potter and others had been organizing against Duncan's "Renaissance 2010" program as CORE grew. Duncan became so angry during the meeting that he briefly left the chambers, apparently because he had expected that the announcement that he would become U.S. Secretary of Education by Barack Obama and a front page story about it in The New York Times would make the day triumphant for the unqualified guy who had been put into power at the head of the nation's third largest school system by then Mayor Richard M. Daley. By July 2014, even the National Education Association's leadership could not longer block the criticism of the Obama administration's attacks on public schools and voted at its annual meeting to demand Duncan's resignation from the post of U.S. Secretary of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.For years, as Education Week has reported, the NEA has vented its frustration with President Obama by essentially redirecting it towards Duncan. This strategy has allowed the union to criticize the administration without looking foolish, especially during the 2012 re-election season—after all, the union has never once endorsed a Republican presidential candidate, and had no choice but to throw its weight behind Obama.

But it's also important to note that California is one of the most populous of the state affiliates, and each year submits a large number of the NBIs that are debated. Last year, sources say, the CTA submitted 36 of the 92 total NBIs.

NEA put out its official response to the California item yesterday. President Dennis Van Roekel stated: "NEA members are understandably frustrated with Secretary Duncan and many of the Department of Education's policies in recent years. We will continue to push the Department of Education to drive student-centered policy changes that are influenced by those who know best—educators working in our classrooms and in our schools—rather than profiteers." We've got queries out to the Education Department and the AFT for comment, and will update this item once we know more.



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