Thursday, April 3, 2008

April 2008 - More Puff From the NY Times on Weingarten

Reading Jennifer Medina in today's NY Times on Randi Weingarten's coming ascension to the AFT presidency (posted on Norms Notes) misses so many bases, we can only call it another puff piece. Oh, where to start?

You might ask: how do your charges that the Times is an agent of BloomKlein jive with a puff piece on Weingarten? Ed Notes readers are familiar with our thesis that Tweed and the UFT are both peas in the same pod and the bombast is just that. "Watch what Weingarten does, not what she says," is our mantra. The Times only talks to the top level people at Tweed and the UFT and pees on the peons.

Remember my post last week (AERAPlaning) about an AERA session with Medina, Alexander Russo and Eduwonk – Andrew Rotherham where when I asked how come we never hear the voices of classroom teachers? Medina responded, "We want to talk to teachers, but they don't want to be on the record." The entire room nodded.

So I avidly searched though the article looking for one teacher quote. I found favorable quotes from anti-union Rod Paige, Rotherham, and the best one of all from conservative Hoover Institute fellow Eric A. Hanushek "gushing with praise for Ms. Weingarten, and promising to do all he could to support her bid to become the president of the AFT. Just one thing, he added with a laugh: "I don’t know if that’s good for your image."

It's not Eric. At least among the NYC teacher corps who have been shredded during Weingarten's tenure. But it's wrong to blame Weingarten alone. Read Kahlenberg's bio on Shanker to see how Al was the architect of so much of what Weingarten is doing and will do as AFT President. He received the same kind of praise from the business community in the 80's and 90's and is considered the godfather of much of the current ed reform that is coming from Democrats.

The surface level analysis in the Times certainly missed this important point – that Weingarten's imprint on the AFT will be mostly style as she continues long-term policies. As to the point that the AFT will take a stronger stand on NCLB, which they supported all along, it has become politically untenable to Weingarten not to oppose it. Another point the Times missed – that Randi goes in the direction of the political current.

I talked at the AERA session about the numerous teacher blogs out there, many of them critical of both Klein and Weingarten. I know, I know. The view at the Times is that these blogs are six people talking to each other. But the numbers of readers is not the issue. When it is clear they are coming from the schools, they demonstrate the depth of feeling out there and represent some level of where teachers in the schools are at. Certainly, the views at NYC Educator where both he and Reality-Based Educator, or Chaz School Daze, or Pissed Off Teacher, or Have a Gneiss Day, or Under Assault etc, etc, etc, (see our blog roll) are just a few examples of the depth of hostility towards Weingarten (and Klein) by teachers.*

I avidly searched the Medina piece for any sign that she tried to talk to any of these people. I'm still looking.

* So why should the Times talk to Weingarten critics when she wins election so overwhelmingly? Again, surface reporting. A weak opposition(especially since she bought out New Action the old opposition) that gets only 20% of the people who voted is not an adequate way to express the deep-seated anti-Weingarten feelings in the schools. More important is the low vote totals Weingarten received from working teachers in all divisions despite controlling all the communications and personnel machinery of the UFT that failed in bringing out a bigger vote for her - only 22% of 70,000 voted.

The ugly numbers (rough and rounded and including the numbers from New Action - some people were confused and still thought they were opposed to Randi) in her vote totals :

Elementary: 7000 votes out of 37,000 teachers
Middle School: 1800 votes out of 13,000 teachers
High School: 2800 out of 20,000 teachers
Total Randi votes: 13000 out of 70,000, a pretty weak endorsement.

You can check out the results for yourself in our comparison chart for the 2004 and 2007 elections. By not putting in a clear successor (a major error that is one area that she has strayed from the Shanker/Feldman script) she is indicating she will run again for UFT Pres. in 2010. Maybe she will get more people to vote for her next time – absence does make the heart grow fonder. I'm missing her already.

Oh! And self-proclaimed ed coomentator/Democrat/hedge hog fund manager Whitney Tilson seems to like her. We recently had some fun with Whitney.


  1. What did you expect when the Times' puffs for Bloomberg and Co. are scattered all over their place? Check out their endorsement for congestion pricing (going after Shelly Siver today); gushing talk of Bloomie's possible VP run with Obama in their Caucus blog; a lovely news piece about doe flunkey Goldstein authorizing public school cricket to "fight" (gasp)obesity among NYC kids.

    Add that to their stunning lack of coverage of AERA. (don't they have 11 education reporters?!!).

    And of course you saw how they were trying to keep their man's name in the news/city room blog pages during his non-campaign for President.

    The teachers who do not talk to them see them as completely out of touch with the middle class. The Times is only for the kids who go to the Ivy League straight from the highly selective NYC public high schools or the rich private schools. Or better the affluent suburbs.

  2. Norm,
    Even if Jennifer Medina just intended this as a puff piece, it is more than that.

    Along the lines of the Kahlenberg biography of Shanker it is part of the drumbeat for showing that the corporate agenda for education is right and that even the most influential ("Ms. Weingarten is widely regarded as one of the most influential people in Albany") and most successful ("She has raised her members' salaries by 43 percent in the last five years"), union leaders is on board.

    Despite her leadership of a union ("part of 'a system that has put the needs of adults ahead of the needs of kids'"--Joel Klein), she endorses charter school and merit pay, and there is probably no limit as to what she'll agree to.

    Medina gives the last word to (the Times forgot he was disgraced) Rod Paige: "If we've got to have union leaders, I would rather have one like Randi...there is a sense of reasonableness to her. I think deep down she has a goal for proper balance."

    Is this the same goal that Rod Paige, Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein and Eduwonk Andrew Rotherham: Unlimited number of teaching hours and class size? standardized tests to determine teacher tenure or teacher retention? elimination of teacher contracts? closing down every school that doesn't meet some arbitrarily devised standard? Allowing non-union charter, private schools, and elite high-test-score population schools to siphon off the highest achieving students, proving that everyone else is responsible for a culture of failure?

  3. Today on Feb. 18, 2020, this piece I wrote in April 2008 popped up on the most read ed notes pieces. Why I have no idea but re-reading it reminds me of why I would expect Randi to lead the AFT and UFT into a non-endorsement if Bernie is the nominee or an outright endorsement if Bloomberg is nominated. Look at the ties that bind.


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