December 6, 2010
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On Michelle Rhee’s ‘Students First’ Organization
WASHINGTON—We wish Michelle Rhee well and hope she learns, as we have, that promoting education reform through conflict and division will not serve the interests of children and their educational needs.
The many school districts that have improved student learning build on respect, and on the hard work that teachers, management, parents and the community have done together. In places like Baltimore; Pittsburgh; New Haven, Conn.; Hillsborough County, Fla.; Norfolk, Va.; and St. Francis, Minn., there is a strong culture of labor-management collaboration, shared responsibility for student success, and an intense focus on identifying and meeting every student’s needs.
Michelle Rhee likes to say that teachers unions are the problem, but the leading states and countries in educational outcomes—such as Finland, Singapore and South Korea—are heavily unionized. They build on what works, such as preparing teachers well, developing robust curriculum and engaging parents. And they do so through collaboration, not conflict or scapegoating.
Improving our schools—and preparing our children for college, career and life—is too important to be reduced to a choice between who is right and who is wrong. This is not a matter of whether we move forward on improving schools, but rather of how we do it, and we invite Michelle Rhee to work with us to give our kids the great schools they deserve and need.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.