Representing Chicago’s teachers and communities in LA: CTU President Karen Lewis, Asean Johnson and Jitu Brown.
Two reliable sources for following what is going on in LA at the AFT convention are from my friends Norm Scott and Jonathan Halabi. Although they are not always in political agreement, who is?
I posted Norm’s report from the committee on Common Core yesterday.
Here is Jonathan’s notes from yesterday.
Both have blogs and you should follow them. Even if Jonathan doesn’t like LA. He’s a New Yorker and can be forgiven.
So this is notes, not everything, because I didn’t see everything, not close.
1. The morning was a series of greetings, including The Rev. Dr. William Barber II (president of the North Carolina NAACP, and of Moral Monday fame), and California governor, Jerry Brown. Brown had an entertaining tangent – he misspoke two words on immigration, and then did a two minute clarification on what needs to be done – I’m assuming it was planned – but a bit funny for the audience.
2. Weingarten spoke long (not a surprise).Her writers had an organized message (we’ve been keeping the promises, we need to keep keeping them, and add a new one). She acknowledged opposition to Common Core, while continuing to support it (but criticizing testing, implementation, etc). She completely appropriated the term “badass” to the point that, when she asked Badass Teachers to stand up, only a small numbers of those present did. I’m assuming embarrassment kept others in their seats.
Weingarten’s writers have a voice problem. Her natural Rockland – big words, not all of them bungled, many of them used correctly – it’s not what you want for a long speech. But what to do? As she moved section to section, the voice, the register, they changed and shifted. A good speaker might pull it off, maybe to great effect. Here, many of us focused on the words, since the delivery jumped rapidly from awkward, to natural, and back again. Even the attempts at self-deprecation often seemed forced. And the audience seemed to cringe collectively at her “homey” moment.
3. Committee Meetings and Caucus Meetings. I am not a delegate, so am not assigned a committee. I am not a member of the Progressive Caucus (joining the UFT’s Unity with others), and do not attend their closed meetings. Which is to say, I missed much of the action.
A. There’s not a “Duncan Resign” resolution coming from the leadership to the floor. On the other hand, what will the AFT tops and UFT do if someone else brings one to the floor? Earlier this year NYSUT (New York State United Teachers) replaced most of their top leadership – largely because the previous year that leadership, confronted with a “John King Resign” resolution, animated by anger and frustration, said no. The UFT stepped aside, and the President and all but one VP were replaced. And the UFT walked away unscathed. So now it’s national, the AFT, and the anger is aimed at Duncan, not King, and if there is a “Dump Duncan” reso from the floor, maybe that’s a big if, but if there’s one, wouldn’t the UFT do the same thing, step aside and let the anger be directed towards passing a resolution that really doesn’t mean much anyway? Duncan has two years left. And the AFT’s voice would be a late addition to a fairly loud chorus.
B. The AFT’s has a long history of taking pro-war positions, and only later modifying some of them (eg Viet Nam). When I was a delegate in 2010 in Seattle, the AFT pushed an Iran resolution that was clearly meant to encourage the hawks in DC. And this time? A Ukraine resolution. No real news, except that it barely squeaked out of committee – just a two vote margin.
C. Common Core. The Chicago Teachers Union resolution “Oppose the Common Core Standards” was defeated in committee. The AFT tops / UFT resolution “The Role of Standards in Public Education” was passed. These are counterposed.
The official resolution continues bad AFT policy from the past. In a section at the top, they laud the standards, in seven bullet points creating a slide show that looks like pure promotion (it would be interesting if this turns out to have been lifted). In another section at the top of the resolution, they say “some AFT members oppose and distrust…” Notice the weak argument, based on “some people.” But then in seven bullet points, they dwell on testing and implementation. This echoes a June 20 e-mail many of us received from Mulgrew: “Everyone recognizes that the Common Core, while the right direction for education, had a terrible rollout.” No. Not everyone.
“The AFT” it reads “will continue to support the promise of CCSS…” That’s the bottom line. And will support a shift away from “excessive testing” begging the question of which tests those are, and exactly how much high stakes testing and standardized testing the AFT is happy with.
There will be debate on the floor, but the UFT delegation votes in lockstep, regardless of how the individual members think, and thus the result is foregone.
Oh, that committee also rejected a resolution (California Federation of Teachers) to reject any more Bill Gates money. It’s hard to fathom how Ed Reform $$$ do not buy influence. In the Bronx, we know that Gates money broke up our schools, created a mess, and then disappeared. We live the aftermath every day.
4. AFT Peace and Justice Caucus had a fairly well-attended panel discussion in the evening (scheduled against a caucus meeting) on corporate school reform.
5. I’ve been staying with my cousin, and navigating LA with great difficulty. I do not love this city.