Randi Weingarten

[Guest post by Simon van Zuylen-Wood] You can learn a lot about a party from the guest list. Last Friday, when President Obama announced his plan to offer states reprieve from No Child Left Behind’s performance targets (failing to meet the targets can trigger harsh sanctions for schools), he was introduced by Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee and joined onstage by Independent Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

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So the bloom is off the rose. President Obama’s Grant Park oration now seems as antique a moment as Ronald Reagan telling us it was “Morning in America.” As glorious as it felt at the time, it was longer on drama than substance. Just why, with the state of the nation as it is now (and was then), did we suppose that anyone could “bring us together”? It was, I always thought, an unspoken idea that Obama’s “diversity” somehow enhanced his substance, his Mensch-liness.

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Fresh Air or Hot Air?

It's been a good week for Randi Weingarten. In a speech Tuesday morning at the National Press Club, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) voiced support for some major education reforms--most notably, tying students' test scores to teacher evaluations and making it easier to fire bad teachers.

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The day before President Obama spoke in Madison, Wisconsin, about the pressing need to improve America's teachers, a report was released on the same topic at a conference in Washington's swanky Capitol Hilton. The task force that wrote the report was chaired by Minnesota Governor (and rumored 2012 presidential candidate) Tim Pawlenty and included such education policy heavyweights as New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

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IT WOULD SEEM like a pretty good gig: About 1,400 teachers in New York City are receiving full salaries and benefits even though they don't have permanent jobs. Two hundred and five of them have been without full-time work for three years. And they can continue receiving payments indefinitely even if they never secure new positions. These educators are members of what is called the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR), a program in which unionized teachers are placed when they don't have jobs. They end up there after being displaced by school closings, program cuts, or voluntary transfers.

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