Obama Said What To The NEA?? Oh, No. He Didn't.

Great takedown over at Edwise of the voucher-lovers' spin on Obama's NEA speech.

Spinning Like Tops: These Responses To Obama's NEA Speech Are No Motown Classic

Filed under: Education by Leo Casey @ 5:19 pm

It is enough to induce vertigo, but watching “the spin” on Obama’s NEA speech from the usual quarters is informative. If you have some free time on your hands, check out the video of the speech and accompanying commentary by professional anti-teacher union blogger Michael Antonucci. Then do the rounds of the post-modern Four Tops, singing their spinning ditties in harmony: Joe Williams of DFER, Wall Street hedge fund operator Whitney Tilson, NCLB hawk Charles Barrone, and Eduwonk’s Andy Rotherham, who sums it all up in Rod Paige style falsetto notes by comparing the NEA to the Kremlin.

Much is made of the few sentences of the Obama speech on teacher compensation. After talking about the need to increase teacher pay across the board and provide more support to teachers, Obama said:

Under my plan, districts will be able to design programs to give educators who serve them as mentors to new teachers the salary increases they’ve earned. They’ll be able to reward those who teach underserved areas or take on added responsibility. As teachers learn new skills or serve their students better or if they consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well. In some places we have already seen that it is possible to find new ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on teachers.

This statement, we are told by the Four Tops, is anathema to teacher unions. A few scattered boos at the NEA Assembly are treated as great signifiers, though they were clearly overcome by the cheers. But virtually all of these proposals by Obama are unexceptional here in New York City and in many other cities around the country. Paying educators more to be lead teachers with additional responsibilities such as mentoring and to serve in high needs schools are proposals that the UFT has long supported, and which we have discussed here at Edwize in the past. The New York City experiment with school wide bonuses adopted last fall demonstrate that when such proposals are “developed with teachers, not imposed on teachers,” to borrow Obama’s words which were dropped from Antonucci’s account, there are willing partners on the teacher union side.

What is more revealing is what in the Obama speech the Four Tops don’t discuss, especially given that they go to such hyperbolic lengths in their claims that the NEA is picking and choosing from the speech. There is no mention of Obama’s line “what I do oppose is using public money for private school vouchers.” Yet not so long ago [here, here and here], the Four Tops were putting words into Obama’s mouth suggesting just the opposite, and then howling cries of betrayal when he repudiated their spin.

Also missing were Obama’s words on the educational issue of the moment, No Child Left Behind. The Four Tops are among the most outspoken supporters of the law as its exists, so one might think that they would find it worthy of note that Obama spoke of “fixing the broken promises of NCLB,” specifically noting that “forcing teachers to teach to a test at the expense of music and art is wrong” and “forcing our kids and our schools to accomplish [all of the goals of NCLB] without the needed resources is wrong.” But not a word.

What a tale we spin…

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