Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared in Tampa, Fla. alongside the presidents of the two major teachers unions: Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Dennis Van Roekel of the National Education Association.
Praising teacher evaluation, tenure, and pay reforms pursued through a partnership among the local school district, union and the Gates Foundation, Duncan lobbed a message of conciliation into an often-overheated debate over the role of unions in school improvement efforts.
“I don’t think any of us like it when something is imposed on us,” Duncan said. “I think there is so much the country can learn from what’s happening here. You have elevated the profession.”
The news conference – held in Hillsborough County, where it now takes up to four years to earn tenure and teachers are paid, in part, according to how well their students perform on standardized tests – was intended to extend an olive branch to the teachers unions in recognition of an important, though increasingly embattled, Democratic Party constituency.