Over the weekend the Washington Post reported that the national American Federation of Teachers union has been meddling in a D.C. battle over efforts to fire teachers who are not successful. The report placed at the center of the conflict the D.C. schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, who is leading the charge to remove teachers deemed inadequate, and Randi Weingarten, the president of the New York City union and of the AFT.
The report is important because, according to the Post, it contradicts an earlier claim by Weingarten that the AFT was “not involved” in the D.C. battle. It is also significant because it suggests the union sees the D.C. plan as having big national implications — i.e., if Rhee’s attempt to give teachers 90 days to improve or be fired succeeds, it could go national.
Now, Weingarten has put out a statement that seems designed to say, we are not scared! She says that the AFT is not “directly involved” in the D.C. contract negotiations but has played a supportive role, and she suggests that that is no big deal. The union has “provided similar assistance to a long list of local unions across the country,” she says.
She also said, “We are proud of that work and are surprised that anyone thought it was being kept a secret.”
Still, actions speak louder than words, and the statement contains no denial of the AFT’s role in the D.C. negotiations.