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Teachers Don't Want Klein in Top Ed Job

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New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein was never in any danger of being named a teachers' pet. But who knew that rumors he could be a potential pick for education secretary would set off furious online petition drives by teachers hoping to ward off the possibility?

One petition, created by a blogger from Sacramento who writes about public schools, likens Klein's administration in New York City to a "dictatorship."

Klein, the petition says, is "representative of a particular rigid approach to school change promoted by NCLB which we oppose."

"Chancellor Klein repeatedly championed and implemented policies that support corporate interests as opposed to children. The NY City Department of Education under Joel Klein has been run like a ruthless dictatorship – with no input from parents or educators. Teachers have not been respected, consulted, nor listened to. And little thought has been devoted to how the policies he has imposed on our schools have been destructive to the children and their futures."

Meanwhile, the Network of Teacher Activist Groups, or TAG, which describes itself as a national coalition of grassroots teacher organizing groups, has put out this statement on its site opposing the appointment of both Klein and Arne Duncan, the Chicago schools chief, who has also been cited as a potential education secretary pick.

"We want a person who is a professional, experienced, and knowledgeable educator, not a corporate executive such as New York City’s Education Chancellor Joel Klein or Chicago CEO Arne Duncan, who have demonstrated their vision of privatized, corporatized, and anti-democratic schools," the statement says.

By this afternoon, nearly 1,000 educators had signed the petition and the statement.

So who is it that the teachers want for the next ed secretary?

Linda Darling-Hammond. Someone, the TAG statement says, is "dedicated to equity and the education of all children with a proven track record in these areas."

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Over a hundred NYC public school parents have also signed this letter to the President-elect, on the subject of his appointment to Education Secretary. (A list of signatures, and a longer version of this letter, with policy recommendations, is available on pspac.wetpaint.com.)

Dear President-elect Obama,

First of all let us congratulate you on your election. Many of us worked ardently to advance your cause, and today we celebrate the bright and hopeful years before us under your leadership.

We write now as parents (and recent parents) in the New York City public school system. We would like to urge in the strongest terms that you select a Secretary for Education with deep practical experience in teaching and learning. We feel that there is a fashion now for placing school reform in the hands of leaders outside the field. In our experience in New York this trend is catastrophic; in our view the administration of Chancellor Joel Klein has disastrously neglected the fundamental needs of children. To lead in education one must understand something about children, about human development, about the history of successes and failures in pedagogy.

Please appoint an experienced educator, a person close to the lives of children, to lead our nation's education system.

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