Valerie Strauss wasn't too impressed with the president's motives or what it says about his education agenda:
Breaking bread with Jeb Bush on school reform should be a questionable proposition for a president from a party that has traditionally championed public education (which is not to say it doesn’t need reform) and teachers unions (which is not to say that they should not reform).
Florida is increasingly being looked to as a national model of education reform, and we have Jeb Bush to thank for that. The state began to overhaul its public education system after Jeb Bush became governor in 1999, and it has been a leader in reforms centered around standardized tests, the expansion of charter schools, virtual education and merit pay. He long tried to reduce the power of teachers unions -- being very vocal about his aims -- and last year campaigned for legislation that would eliminate teacher tenure.
The scheduled Obama-Jeb Bush fest is symbolic of how far afield Democrats have gone with school reform.
Obama last month expressed support for the Wisconsin teachers, who have been protesting to keep the collective bargaining rights (and that of other public employees) that the governor, Scott Walker, is intent on taking away. Wisconsin teachers already made concessions on monetary issues.
Obama said: "Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions. And I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers.”
So, at this point in time, when teachers in Wisconsin and elsewhere feel besieged, I’m wondering why Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are flying to Florida to be with Republicans who have been part of the attack force. Why, when teachers are fighting for union rights, does the president decide to spend time with anti-teachers union school reformers?
Nicole Hermann has been teaching second grade in Miami for the past five years.Let's be frank - Jeb Bush and Barack Obama have the very SAME education policies.
She knows the struggles teachers face on a daily basis and is concerned about Senate Bill 736, which would tie teacher salaries to student test scores and eliminate tenure for teachers hired after 2014.
"I am very disappointed in what is taking place in the Florida legislature," said Hermann. "I don't think government leaders appreciate what we do for young people."
Hermann was among 200 Miami-Dade teachers who protested President Barack Obama's visit to Miami Central Senior High School on March 4.
Many held signs criticizing Obama for not doing more to help teachers during tough economic times.
"I work very hard to help special needs children," said Mark Andrews, who teaches seventh grade special education students in North Miami. "I can't believe what government is doing to education."
Karen Aronowitz, president of United Teachers of Dade said she and other union members were very angry that Obama would choose to stand next to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush at the event. Aronowitz said that Bush had worked to close Miami Central Senior High School when it was rated as a D and F school for ten consecutive years. She said that Bush is in favor of legislation that would break teachers' unions.
One of the things that Aronowitz and other union members are concerned about is the support both Obama and Bush have for charter schools. When Bush became Florida governor in 1999, he strongly supported charter schools and standardized testing that would tie teacher pay to student performance. Charter schools are not covered by collective bargaining agreements.
If anything, Obama has been more aggressive at pushing charter schools, standardized testing in every subject at every grade level, and teacher pay and evaluations tied to those test scores than Jeb Bush's brother, President George W. Bush was.
Because Barack Obama labels himself a "Democrat," Dems in Congress gave him everything he wanted on his pro-charter/pro-privatization agenda.
Had George W. Bush tried to push the very same agenda through, he would have gotten strong resistance from those very same Congressional and Senate Dems.
So in many ways, Barack Obama has been even MORE damaging to public education and teachers than George W. was and it makes total sense that Obama would share a stage with Jeb Bush to promote union-busting, pro-charter, pro-testing education reform.
Wherever Obama goes, teachers would be doing themselves a favor if they demonstrated against him, spoke out against his education policies, and let him know that they will NOT be supporting him come 2012.