In a recent poll a majority of Americans said they thought Barack Obama, president, was a socialist. It is safe to say that America’s teachers were not among them. At the annual convention earlier this month of the National Education Association, America’s largest teachers’ union, the body’s president accused Mr Obama and Arne Duncan, his high-profile education secretary, of spearheading the most “anti-educator, anti-union and anti-student” administration he could recall.
To a degree that almost nobody anticipated 19 months ago, Mr Obama, who will on Thursday give a set piece address in Washington on education reform, has alienated the largest single historical provider of cash and volunteers to the Democratic party – namely the teachers’ unions.
Yet Mr Obama’s reforms, which have been taking place at the state level and often in the teeth of union opposition, have brought about what even critics concede is the most rapid school reforms America has seen in a generation.