An article in the Washington Post yesterday cited American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten saying that Michelle Rhee's recent Op-ed piece was an "apology" to teachers.
In case you missed Rhee's piece, it essentially said that she does not blame teachers for the poor quality of education in DCPS. She writes that though teachers are not the cause of the achievement gap, she thinks they are the only solution. This is seen by some as a contradiction to her claims that a "significant share" of the DCPS teaching corps should be transitioned out. Personally, I think she's right on both counts -- teachers are not the biggest cause of the achievement gap, but there is a loud and obnoxious minority of teachers in DCPS who are contributing to that gap and damaging children.
So then Randi Weingarten says that Rhee's letter was an "apology, basically." And Rhee's spokesperson says it wasn't an "apology, but a clarification." You can read the entire story, I won't bore you with the details.
What I will bore you with is my take on this situation. Randi Weingarten is being a terrible leader. When she calls Rhee's letter an apology, she is doing so to make people believe that Rhee was wrong, and that she is apologizing for it. This, of course, means that Weingarten is right. It's politics, plain and simple. Weingarten -- who was a contender to fill Hillary Clinton's senate seat -- is using her public position as AFT president to promote her own career. This woman has the opportunity to play a substantive role in the reform of one of America's most troubled public school districts. So what does she do? She engages in childish junior high drama. These actions lead me to conclude that Weingarten doesn't consider the AFT presidency to be anything more than a stepping stone in her career. She has her eyes set on bigger and better things, like national political office. By saying that Rhee apologized, she is claiming a personal political victory for herself.
This wouldn't be so terrible if she were promoting herself while still helping the WTU and its members. However, Weingarten's actions are harming the tenuous situation in DCPS. Weingarten knows that Rhee won't simply roll over. The chancellor's spokesperson was quoted as saying, "The chancellor took the chance to communicate her thoughts on teachers in full, which had previously only been reported partially. Her position has not changed." In declaring the letter an apology, Weingarten is making relations between the union and chancellor more strained. Not exactly a great thing to do if you are actually committed to facilitating negotiations.
Whether you like Rhee or don't, I think we can all agree that the Chancellor's office and the WTU need to work together. Weingarten's comments bug me because it indicates very clearly that she isn't committed to facilitating anything but her own career advancement.
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