« Teachers' Union Chiefs Speak Tonight | Main | Tribute to Sen. Kennedy »

‘New’ Voice Speaks About Teachers at Convention


The teachers’ unions weren’t the only voices representing teachers on the first night of the Democratic National Convention.

Enter Jon Schnur.

The CEO of the reform group New Leaders for New Schools, also an adviser to Barack Obama’s campaign, got a prime seat on the stage of the Democratic National Convention Monday night during the first of three American town halls.

The 15-minute town hall meeting managed to cram in issues including health care, tax reform, and education.

Schnur tackled a very broad question from a Philadelphia mom who was piped in on video, who wanted to know how Obama would reform schools. Schnur basically recited Obama’s education platform in lightning speed, but emphasized the Illinois senator’s plan to recruit and retain effective teachers with the goal of getting the best teachers in schools where our students need them the most. Schnur, and his school reform group that trains school administrators, are more open than the teachers' unions are to ideas such as merit pay.

Schnur's appearance followed speeches by National Education Association President Reg Weaver, a boisterous and verbose speaker who managed to come close to his three-minute time limit, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who ended up running over on her time limit by about 64 seconds.

Weaver, who leaves office on Sept. 1, in his speech shortly after 5 p.m., got some good applause (bolstered by people banging together their inflatable thundersticks the NEA handed out at its luncheon earlier today), when he said: "He knows we must hold schools accountable. But that the world is too complex and diverse to judge students by a single, multiple choice, and high stakes test."

The NEA dragged its feet in endorsing a candidate for president, but is now fully behind Obama.

Weingarten, in her first big speech in the political arena as the new AFT president, didn't mention that her union endorsed Obama's opponent in the Democratic primaries, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. There were only good things to say about Obama. Weingarten said: “Barack Obama knows teachers must be partners, not pawns, in federal education policy.”

--Michele McNeil


The NEA must come forth with a comprehensive reform proposal if it truly wants to lead and garner the respect of folks like the Mayors of Newark and D.C.


I'm a life long Democrat who believes that my party still doesn't understand that we can recruit great teachers to the schools that need them most, but we must, simultaneously, offer the highest quality professional learning for those already teaching. This will take substantial investment from the federal government.

I do not care what the unions say about education, they are very comfortable with the status quo and are more interested in protecting rotten teachers then any kind of reform at all. As a FORMER NEA and FORMER AFT member, I would say the AFT is a bit more real about the changes that MUST be made but there still is no desire to enact those changes because, to the unions, it would undermine the educators ability to be lazy and whine about everything from pay to testing.

I am sick and tired of the mantra that unions protect bad teachers. It is patently false. We protect the process that in turn protects good and bad teachers that might be falsely accused. If the administrators did their jobs--no bad teachers (or at least very few) would be left in classrooms.

I think it's about time that everyone gets realistic about educational expectations for students. New Leaders for New Learning seems to think that all students are capable of being on the level of Einstein. There are students who do not have the capability to achieve at that level. What we need to be doing is assuring that every student is being challenged according to their abilities. For some students that may be advanced placement courses. For others it may be daily living skills. Regardless of mental capacity, all students should be challenged to excellence. . . that is to achieve at their highest possible level. If you want quality teachers, educate them properly, provide them with the necessary educational materials and treat them like professionals instead of assuming that all teachers are incompetant

Public Education in America has been a victim of fear, ignorance and media meltdown for decades. Real family values are a thing of the past. No discipline of our children leads to misplaced values in the classroom. We tolerate all the media, sex,crime, neglect and fanatical television programing; then we blame and disrespect teachers because children are not motivated to want to be educated. It all begins in our home environment.

When society finally gets fed up, society will not stop until America has the world-class education system it deserves. Society will then insist that teaching is in deed, and not only in word, an estimable profession. Teaching will then attract the most scholastically able applicants and pay them well as they conduct their professional practice. What may be the most important factor of academic achievement, relational trust, will then be the most natural dynamic of the stakeholders rather than the current adversarial climate.

My mother retired some years ago from the public school system after 35 years; the last 15 under the thumbs of the NEA and its affiliates. She firmly believes that the two biggest impediments to public education were the creation of the U.S. Dept. of Education and the founding of the NEA. After serving for almost 12 years as a BOE member, I have every reason to believe her. The NEA's endorsement of Barak Obama also is an implied endorsement of "one size fits all" social engineering in the classroom over knowledge. Can we say, "No Child Left Behind?"

Comments are now closed for this post.

Follow This Blog


Most Viewed on Education Week



Recent Comments