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Two Democratic Groups Push Back Against NEA

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The inclusion of performance pay may make NCLB a "deal breaker" for the NEA. But its absence would disappoint some Democrats.

The Center for American Progress—led by John Podesta, a former chief of staff in the Clinton White House—says that the proposed grant programs supporting new performance-pay projects should stay in the House's NCLB draft. "This is an important initiative that deserves support on both sides of the aisle—especially from progressives who believe in strengthening public education for low-income students," CAP says in a brief for media.

The fact sheet then counters many of NEA's talking points against the proposals. It says the programs would be voluntary, wouldn't rob teachers of their bargaining rights, and wouldn't create competitive working conditions. It concludes by offering media interviews with CAP's in-house experts.

Over at Democrats for Education Reform, Charles Barone offers up a 14-page brief on NCLB. (Barone, a former staffer for House education committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., has given his insider's perspective in comments here and here on this blog.) Barone covers the history of NCLB's predecessor, highlighting why the Clinton administration shied away from requiring disaggregated data and how Rep. Miller tried in 1999 to nationalize Texas' accountability system.

In the current debate, Barone says the teacher-pay proposal "is a comprehensive and thoughtful package of carrots and sticks." The proposal for multiple measures and local assessments could damage NCLB provisions "that empower parents with clear information and that target crucial educational resources," he writes. Note the while NEA wants to such changes to the law's testing rules, it says the current proposal still puts too much emphasis on the current testing system.

Barone has identified the two big issues that House staff members are trying to hash out as they prepare a bill for the Education and Labor Committee to consider. Where will the Democrats on the committee come down on teacher pay? Stay tuned.

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"Where will the Democrats on the committee come down on teacher pay?" Isn't that a bit rhetorical? The NEA is the Democratic party, or at least they have significant input into the party's platform. Hillary, et. al., will follow the lead of the NEA on merit pay for performance to lock in their 3.2 million votes. I rarely agree with the NEA (especially after being forced to be a member for 34 years) but to be honest, they actually have a leg to stand on regarding this issue. As long as they genuinely allow their locals to negotiate for themselves, they are correct in their posture on this critical issue.

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