Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, convening a two-day labor-management conference here on Tuesday, argued that teachers’ unions can help solve many of the challenges facing public schools.
But as the conference opened, that view was under challenge in a number of state capitals.
Republicans in several states have proposed legislation in recent weeks that would bar teachers’ unions from all policy discussions, except when the time comes to negotiate compensation. In Tennessee and Wisconsin, Republicans have proposed stripping teachers’ unions of collective bargaining rights altogether.
Education historians said the unions were facing the harshest political climate since states began extending legal bargaining rights to schoolteachers decades ago.
The conference, convened by the Department of Education, drew school authorities and teachers’ union leaders from 150 districts across the nation to Denver to discuss ways of working together. To participate, each district’s superintendent, school board president and teachers’ union leader had to sign a pledge to collaborate in good faith to raise student achievement.