A skirmish between powerful teachers’ unions and President Barack Obama over nearly $5 billion in education spending is shaping up as a preview of the battle to come over No Child Left Behind in Congress early next year.
But the tables are turned: now the unions are worried that Obama, a Democratic ally, is going to be just as tough on them as President George W. Bush, a longtime foe.
The dispute adds teachers’ unions to a growing list of key Democratic constituencies that have been frustrated by Obama’s lunges toward the political middle, along with gay-rights activists upset Obama won’t lift the ban on gays in the military, and Latino officials who say Obama is slow-walking immigration reform.
So far, both the unions and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have tried to avoid a full-on collision, and the unions are showing new flexibility in accepting previously unheard-of moves like stricter teacher evaluations.
But they’re also making it clear they’ll only go so far with Obama, who was booed at two teachers’ union conventions when he was a candidate.