NEA President on School Reform: 'The Corporate Model Is Crumbling'
The nearly eight years of the Obama administration haven't exactly been a cakewalk for the National Education Association. But the union's president, Lily Eskelsen García, thinks things are looking up
First, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which seeks to broaden accountability beyond tests and bars the federal government from interfering with teacher evaluations, school turnarounds, and more. And now the Democrats have nominated Hillary Clinton, a candidate that Eskelsen García believes will be in the union's corner.
"She's going to listen to a lot of people. But we're going to be in her ear first, talking about things like what English-language learners need, what students in special education need, and what a test measures and what it doesn't measure," Eskelsen García told me as she bounced from one event to another here.
The union will no longer be "sitting at the children's table, after the adults, or the people that think that they're the adults, the decision and then we're the first to know about it," she added.
Over the past eight years, NEA has had to swallow a slew of policies it didn't really like, especially teacher evaluations based on test scores, and work with former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, whom some NEA members here have described as "trainwreck."
But Eskelsen García thinks that the Democrats who supported many of those ideas—teacher merit-pay, charter schools, alternative routes into the teaching profession—are in a tight spot these days.
"The corporate model is crumbling of its own absurdity," EskelsenGarcía said."Now the [Democrats for Education Reform] are in town and they are having a real hard time this time making any kind of case. ... It's all about vouchers and charter schools and Teach for America. ... They can't point to one success. Wherever they've said 'This will move the needle,' it didn't."
Of education reformers, she said, "their balloon is pffft!" (she made a deflating sound) and then joked "I'm not sure how you're gonna spell that." (Probably unsurprisingly, Education Reform Now, the non-profit think tank affiliated with DFER, a political action committee, sees all these things very differently. Check out what it had to say here.)
That's not to say the Democratic National Convention is all sunshine and puppies for the NEA. A vocal contingent of delegates remain really, really unhappy with the union's decision to endorse Clinton early, without giving her primary opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a chance to catch fire, or at least to extract more policy promises from Clinton.
And the American Federation of Teachers, the other national teachers' union, is feeling some of the same heat. Case in point: Mindy Rosier, a 10-year special education teacher in New York City NEA President on School Reform: 'The Corporate Model Is Crumbling' - Politics K-12 - Education Week: