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Obama Ideas Better Received at AFT

There were no boos this time. In fact, there even was fairly strong applause.

When Barack Obama spoke this morning via live satellite feed from California to 3,000 AFT delegates who have congregated in his hometown of Chicago, he appeared to have a good sense that this was a crowd more open than that at the NEA to his ideas on performance pay and charter schools.

"I applaud AFT for your leadership in representing charter school teachers and support staff all across this country, and for even operating your own charters in New York," he said. "Because we know well-designed charter schools have a lot to offer."

When he spoke about performance pay, in almost exactly the same words as those he used at the NEA, he also reminded the AFT delegates that with their own such plans in Cincinnati and Chicago, "you've shown that it is possible to find new ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them."

Just minutes before, the delegates voted overwhelmingly to endorse Obama for president (only one woman yelled "no" within my hearing). But although the applause was strong and enthusiastic, there were no noisemakers here, nor a flood of Obama T-shirts, like there were at the NEA. Not uncharacteristic of the AFT delegation crowd that just seems to be more subdued than the one at the NEA, not to mention smaller.

In fact, one delegate from a merged NEA-AFT local who had attended the larger union's convention in Washington last week showed up wearing an "NEA for Obama" T-shirt.

Meanwhile, speculation continued among the delegates as to why the senator chose not to appear in person. One source speculated that he wanted to be fair and treat the AFT the same way as he did the NEA. But other delegates said it is likely he still feels betrayed: After all, he was not the AFT's first choice for president.

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