We educators can either take charge of the "reform" that's needed in education, or the "reformistas" will do it for us and continue scapegoating teachers (especially unionized teachers!) for everything from state budget shortfalls to the weather outside. Not a quote, this sums up the message AFT National president, Randi Weingarten delivered at today's AFT-Michigan Convention here in Detroit. She reminded us very artfully that the catchy rallying cry, "Education reform!" has become the euphemism for balancing budgets on the backs of teachers and the public education system, in general. None of this budget balancing is happening with an eye toward what students need, she pointed out -- those needs just won't be met, and teachers will probably be blamed for the grim consequences of that neglect, too.
The controversy over the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" program lives on, and isn't likely to die down any time soon. A contingent of very committed delegates from the Detroit Federation of Teachers did their level best to pass resolutions that would call this program what it is largely perceived to be -- a ploy to bust teacher unions and privatize public education, but Weingarten, Michigan's top AFT officers and most of the delegates blocked their efforts. Since RTTT has already been signed into Michigan law, the consensus seems to be that we should support those who are working with Arne Duncan to tweak RTTT into a more acceptable, less damaging program. Some of the opposing delegates have already been handed pink slips; others will wait out the long summer debate over the fate of Detroit Public Schools, under the leadership of emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb. In any case, it's not a pretty situation, and Weingarten, Hecker and others issued a challenge to all who care for public education to speak up this summer. There will be lots of campaigns, events, etc...more to come, soon!