Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Fellow Teachers Do Something Stupid

The National Education Association voted to endorse Barack Obama for the 2012 election.  They also voted to direct
. . . . the NEA President to communicate aggressively, forcefully, and immediately to President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that NEA is appalled with Secretary Duncan's practice of:. . . .
Blogger Teacher Ken tries to put the decision in historical perspective.
Let's provide some historical context for elections since 1988.

1988  Dukakis got 86%

1992 Clinton got 88%

1996 Clinton got 91%

2000 Gore got 86.5%

2004 Kerry got 86.5%

2008 Obama got 79.8%

2011, Obama got 72%.

Unlike Clinton, in his endorsement for reelection Obama dropped 7.8%, while Clinton went up 3%.

And Obama's percentage in 2008 was already the lowest in the past 5 elections.

This is far from "overwhelming" support by historical standards.
Those numbers according to Teacher Ken mean the vote was something other than overwhelming by historical standards.  Overwhelming or not, the endorsement is a stupid decision.

First, Obama's education record is dismal.  The Washington Post describes an individual teacher's frustrations that echo mine.  Teachers supported Obama to "stand strong for public schools and break from a federal education policy of 'testing, testing, testing.'"  However the results have been something different.
Three years later, all the standardized tests are still there. In some places, they are beginning to be used to fire teachers. Lately. . .  the solutions to all of public education’s troubles seem to boil down to a refrain: “Blame it on the teacher[s] who works [their] tail[s] off for 14 hours a day."
Further, education historian Diane Ravitch who tweets with the handle @DianeRavitch has tweeted the following:  "Obama education policy is worse than NCLB because of increased pressure for high-stakes testing, judging by teachers by scores." and "Suppose we might refer to the Bush-Obama education policy since NCLB and RTTT [Race to the Top] are so well aligned, bipartisan."

In short, President Obama has done nothing that teachers supported him to do and he may well have made matters worse.

Second, the vote to endorse and the vote to issue disapproval seems to indicate that Duncan is a wild card who is acting without Obama's approval.  The President appointed Secretary Duncan.  The President has shown a willingness to overrule his generals.  The New York Times reported,
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, said Thursday that President Obama’s new schedule for drawing down forces there was “more aggressive” than he had recommended and increased the risk that the military would not meet all its goals.
Teachers are now supposed to believe that the President can overrule a general but not a secretary of education. It's much more logical, Duncan is putting Obama's policies in place.

Third, NEA may have felt pressured to make the endorsement now so they hold the Representative Assembly every July.  The Chicago Tribune reports
Because the NEA's representative assembly, its primary policymaking arm, meets once a year, union leaders said they faced a dilemma of either being early or late in determining their political support. The group typically makes an endorsement in July preceding the presidential election.
The endorsement is the most important political tool that NEA has.  They have squandered it.

Given that Obama's policies are no better than President Bush's policies, all this early endorsement accomplishes is re-enforce the idea that teachers are lap dogs of the Democratic party.

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