Friday, July 3, 2009

NEA's Town Hall with Arne Duncan

Yesterday, before the official beginning of this year's NEA RA, over 7,000 NEA members met with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. NEA hosted one of his many "listening and learning" town hall forums on education here at the San Diego Convention Center.

Secretary Duncan first shared with us his background in education. He then went on to say that we should not let seniority and tenure rules put adults ahead of students, and that their performance should be measured--in part--by student scores.

Teacher pay -- and teacher tenure -- needs changing, Duncan said. He and President Obasma hope to collaborate with NEA and its members on new systems of compensation that will depart from traditional seniority-based salary scales.

Duncan went on to say that, "Excellence matters and we must honor it -- fairly, transparently, and on terms teachers can embrace."

Next, finally, our members had their turn. A member from Virginia asked how much of our input would be seen in the reauthorized version of the ESEA? The crowd responded with and thunderous, standing applause. A member from California asked Duncan to promise to not close schools, turn schools into charters and tie salaries to test scores.

Duncan responded to these questions like a typical, well-trained politician. He repeatedly said, "Great question." before not really answering the question and going back to his message. Messages like, "We've been scared to shine a spotlight on excellence," and, "Children have only one chance, one chance to get an education."

The Secretary never did give any straight answers. He did however, promise one thing: That the Administration will work in collaboration with the NEA and other organizations to develop a new plan for education in our country.

Well, I have heard this before from our own Dallas ISD Administration. The DISD has repeatedly brought in employees from across the District to talk about issues and propose solutions. These employees took time out of their day to come and provide their input with the understanding that their input would be used. Only thing was, their input was put into File 13 and the Administration of DISD did their own thing anyway!

I just hope that this Administration in D.C. is NOTHING LIKE THE ONE IN DALLAS! I encourage all of you to watch closely what happens in the coming weeks and months. To watch and see if President Obama and his Administration truly do work cooperatively with educators to improve education.

We all have seen how "merit pay" has divided our campuses instead of promoting collaboration and working together. We've seen charter schools draw money from public dollars and actually do worse than the public schools that they were supposed to have replaced.

We've all heard the promises. Now, it's time to see some action.

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