Friday, September 12, 2008

Ed. Equality Project's 'Cheap Shot' at Unions

Ed. Equality Project's 'Cheap Shot' at Unions

American Federation of Teachers' President Randi Weingarten told me today she is "really pissed" about the anti-union bent of yesterday's Education Equality Project event.

While the Democratic National Convention here in Denver is supposed to be about uniting the party, Weingarten said that yesterday's "Ed Challenge for Change" forum, sponsored by the Democrats for Education Reform, and a press conference before promoting the Education Equality Project, was more about creating division than showing leadership on school reform.

Some big-city mayors, including Washington's Adrian Fenty, and Newark's Cory Booker, along with Washington schools' Chancellor Michelle Rhee, took the unions (which they sometimes called "special interests") to task for standing in the way of education reform. They were promoting their Education Equality Project, which demands more accountability and solutions from schools for lifting student achievement.

"It was a cheap shot," Weingarten told me today, after a joint AFT-National Education Association luncheon honoring woman governors wrapped up. She added that union members weren't even invited to join the conversation. By contrast, she pointed out that two rising Democratic stars—Govs. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Janet Napolitano of Arizona—used their speeches at today's luncheon to talk about the importance of partnerships between policymakers and teachers and their unions.

"This was a couple of mayors, and I very much appreciate their efforts. But they're tearing down the people who they need to lift up," Weingarten said.

Today's two-hour luncheon, held at Mile Hile Station in downtown Denver, also honored outgoing Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner. Washington's Chris Gregoire and Michigan's Jennifer Granholm, the only other female Democratic governors, did not attend.

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