Union leader derides Obama education chief 

click to enlarge Arne Duncan
  • AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
  • Education Secretary Arne Duncan listens as President Barack Obama speaks about education during a lunch meeting with teachers, Monday, July 7, 2014, in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington. The nation's largest teachers' union wants Duncan to quit. Delegates of the National Education Association adopted a business item July 4 at its annual convention in Denver that called for his resignation. The vote underscores the long standing tension between the Obama administration and teachers' unions -- historically a steadfast Democratic ally.

The president of the nation's second-largest teachers union said Friday that President Barack Obama's education chief has turned his back on the concerns of educators and parents, but stopped short of calling for his ouster.

Teachers unions have been clashing with the administration over its support for charter schools and its push to use student test scores as part of teacher evaluations, a relationship that further frayed after Education Secretary Arne Duncan Duncan spoke in support of a California judge's ruling last month that struck down tenure and other job protections for the state's public school teachers.

"We need a secretary of education who walks our walk, and fights our fight for the tools and resources we need to help children. And we are deeply disappointed that this Department of Education has not lived up to that standard," United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a draft of a speech she will deliver at a union convention in Los Angeles.

She said the judge's decision in the California case "presupposes that for kids to win, teachers have to lose. Nothing could be further from the truth." She added that Duncan needs to listen to parents and teachers "rather than dismissing their concerns."

Earlier this month delegates of the largest teachers union -- the National Education Association -- called for Duncan to quit. That action underscored the long-standing tension between the administration and teachers unions -- historically strong Democratic allies.

The landmark California ruling by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country.

Siding with the nine students who brought a lawsuit, he ruled that California's laws on hiring and firing in schools have resulted in "a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms." He agreed, too, that a disproportionate number of these teachers are in schools that have mostly minority and low-income students.

The judge stayed the ruling pending appeals. The case involves 6 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

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