The recent landmark California court decision in Vergara v. California – which ruled the state’s teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional – is exposing a growing rift between the Obama administration and the teachers unions that twice helped to elect him.
President Obama, through Education Secretary Arne Duncan, has continuously pushed for increasing teacher accountability and other education reforms unpopular with the teachers unions, but Duncan’s recent comments applauding the results of the California case is sending the unions and their allies over the edge, Businessweek reports.
Duncan said the Vergara case “presents an opportunity for a progressive state with a tradition of innovation to build a new framework for the teaching profession that protects students’ rights to equal educational opportunities while providing teachers the support, respect, and rewarding careers they deserve,” according to the news site.
But American Federation of Teachers President Rhonda Weingarten took Duncan to the tool shed over his take on the case in an open letter that “was clearly meant to gird her members for battle,” Businessweek reports.
“Teachers across the country are wondering why the secretary of education thinks that stripping them of their due process is the way to help all children,” Weingarten said.
“It is unexpected to see a top Obama administration official staking out a position so at odds with teachers unions. They are, after all, a key part of the Democratic Party’s base. But Duncan’s praise for Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu’s June 10 decision speaks volumes about the ruling’s potential to change the public education system in the U.S.
“Treu tentatively ruled in favor of nine California students – backed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch and his nonprofit organization Students Matter – who argued that they were deprived of their right to a quality education because of state laws granting tenure to teachers after just 18 months on the job. The judge accepted the plaintiffs’ case that too many underperforming teachers wind up in low income and minority schools and can’t easily be fired. Treu rejected the argument made by unions that tenure is simply the right to due process; he noted that tenured instructors in California are rarely dismissed.”
Union officials typically refrain from speaking publicly about the obvious political connection between the teachers unions and their beneficiaries, but unflinching union apologist Dianne Ravich didn’t hesitate to admonish Duncan for betraying his supporters in the Democratic Party.