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Posted at 1:20 PM ET, 03/ 6/2011

Obama's odd embrace of Jeb Bush

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by educator Anthony Cody, who taught science for 18 years in inner-city Oakland and now works with a team of science teacher-coaches that supports novice teachers. He is a National Board-certified teacher and an active member of the Teacher Leaders Network. This post appeared on his Education Week Teacher blog, Living in Dialogue.

By Anthony Cody
President Obama last week proved his point. Education is not a partisan issue. Both Democrats and Republicans are pushing terrible ideas. In order to endanger the great institution of public education in America, both parties have been working together. And in order to save it, teachers, parents and students will need to stand up to leaders of both parties.

The president went on Friday to Florida, where he shared the stage with former Republican governor Jeb Bush. Obama said,

"We are also honored to be joined here today by another champion of education reform, somebody who championed reform when he was in office, somebody who is now championing reform as a private citizen -- Jeb Bush...The truth is I've gotten to know Jeb because his family exemplifies public service. And we are so grateful to him for the work that he's doing on behalf of education. So, thank you, Jeb."

President Obama immediately got some flack for this. Jennie Smith, the one teacher on the Educator's Roundtable that followed, expressed her views:

"I expressed to the President how I (and so many like me) felt about this apparent collaboration with the Bush privatization agenda. I told him directly that I and so many other teachers were very disappointed to see him on stage with Jeb Bush, considering the assault on public education he has led in this state and how his foundation has continuously tried to eliminate our contracts and our collective bargaining."

President Obama's response? Jennie Smith summarized:

"Education should not be a partisan issue, and we must work together in a bipartisan fashion to enact reform. He said that he was aware of the decertification issues for our unions and that he did not support that, but that we had to be willing to compromise in the interest of improving education for our children, and that teachers had to be willing to be held accountable. He said that instead of fighting reform, we should get in front of it and lead it. He also said there was a difference between Rick Scott and Jeb Bush, and that it was important to distinguish."

In her commentary Jennie Smith does an excellent job explaining exactly what Jeb Bush has done for education in the great state of Florida. Remember the fight over Senate Bill 6 last spring? This law would have required pay and evaluations to be tied to test scores. As Smith brilliantly explains:

"Everything about their pet legislation discourages qualified career teachers from working in the state of Florida, let alone in a struggling school. Even the most effective teacher recognizes the variability of test scores from year to year and class to class, and the unreliability of those measures. Statistic variations are such that a teacher who is rated "highly effective" one year could be rated "ineffective" the next simply from having a different group of students sitting in front of her."

But I noticed something else in the president's comments. He also said:

"You know, I was reading the other day an article -- this is just a couple days ago -- in The New York Times about how teachers were just feeling beat up, just not feeling as if folks understood how much work went into teaching and how dedicated they were to the success of their students. And so I want to be very clear here. We are proud of what you guys do each and every day. We are proud of what you do each and every day. We need to honor teachers. Countries that are successful right now academically, typically teachers are considered one of the top professions."

I was quoted in that New York Times article. What I said was this:

"What we need in these schools is stability," said Mr. Cody, 52, who writes a blog about teaching. "We need to convince people that if they invest their career in working with these challenging students, then we will reward them and appreciate them. We will not subject them to arbitrary humiliation in the newspaper. We will not require they be evaluated and paid based on test scores that often fluctuate greatly beyond the teacher's control."

President Obama needs to understand that we do not need the combination of fulsome praise and punitive policies that have been the trademark of Arne Duncan's Department of Education. It may impress members of the media and politicians, but at the end of the day, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot claim to be all about honoring our profession and schools, and then support policies that are in danger of destroying them.

My great appreciation goes to Jennie Smith for speaking truth so clearly. Every time our leaders meet teachers, I hope this is what they hear. This week we broke through the noise. With the help of Jon Stewart and Diane Ravitch, our views punctured the false consensus that has been portrayed about education reform.

President Obama is right about one thing. Education reform is not a partisan issue. Teachers have to stand up to Democrats and Republicans alike. And we will not be holding fundraisers or walking precincts for candidates of either party that pursue these destructive policies.

Florida teachers showed us last year how to fight this trend. They made a powerful alliance with parents, and put immense pressure on their political leaders to stop Senate Bill 6. They ultimately convinced Republican governor Charlie Crist to veto the bill. This year they have launched a campaign called Awake the State that is holding dozens of rallies across Florida to oppose the huge budget cuts that loom for schools and social services.

Teachers have been called a sleeping giant. The giant is stirring. President Obama hopes to soothe us back to sleep with his sweet words of praise. But we are experiencing the nightmarish policies that his administration is enabling across the country. When you have a nightmare, the thing to do is WAKE UP. Stand up. And so we will. Find out how you can get involved - teachers, parents, students - we all need to stand together. We are marching next July 30, at the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action.


Follow my blog every day by bookmarking And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at it!

By Valerie Strauss  | March 6, 2011; 1:20 PM ET
Tags:  anthony cody, education week, jeb bush, obama and education, obama and jeb bush, obama and teachers, president obama, teachers, teachers protest  
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I watched the President's speech in Florida on CNN. I found myself continually questioning how what he is saying now could square with his comments on improving NCLB during the campaign. I strongly supported Candidate Obama on my Educators' News web site throughout his campaign. I'm now disillusioned by a President who advocates more testing (and the resultant narrowing of curriculum and other negative unintended consequences), basing teacher evaluations on high stakes tests (there's so much more to teaching and learning than the numbers tell - See Jenny Orr's "What I Teach", ending or modifying seniority and teacher bargaining rights which help teachers stay in the profession as a career, not just a stepping stone to something else.

While President Obama has faced a lot of challenges not of his own making in his presidency, his betrayal of teachers (and students and parents) with the false gospel of business based education "reform" strategies has moved me to the point of hoping there is a viable alternative candidate for whom to vote next time around!

Posted by: EdNews1 | March 6, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who is shocked by Obama's embrace of Jeb Bush and his education agenda hasnt been paying attention. Seriously not paying attention.

This is the problem with many supportive, loyal Democrats. They go on automatic pilot when a Dem gets elected, just assuming that these leaders will champion or at least halfheartedly try to uphold what their party is supposed to stand up and fight for. Same problem with support for unions - not all are fighting the good fight. Many are caving and colluding with the bipartisan powers that be on these toxic reforms.

With Obama, his corporate education trajectory has been clearly evident from the earliest days in office. I thought he would be less than helpful due to his merit pay embrace on the campaign trail, but I didnt think he would be as bad as he has been once he got into office.

He not only hasnt been somewhat upholding teachers'protections and union gains, he has been actively working to undo them and to remake education in a way that is completely conservative - from the rightwing playbook. That is why they dont criticize him and give him bipartisan votes when it comes to educaiton.

At least 40 states have changed laws, with bipartisan cooperation, of course, to get RttT money. This wasnt Rs coming over to progressive legislative changes, it was the complete opposite. It was Dems going R in a big way, in a neoliberal direction. All the GOP needed to do was stay where it has always been and welcome the Dems into their open arms.

And some teachers unions, especially under Weingarten's influence, have played the game in our foes' favor, have actually supported - with a load of bs to members - these education deforms. Well, again, anyone who pays attention has seen what a complete and utter sell-out Randi Weingarten is - whether on charters, teacher evals, and now tenure! Too bad she heads, oh, just the 2nd largest union in the nation - for teachers, no less!

I'm being cynical, I guess, if I say she is a longtime loyal DNC member and rakes in a cool 350K doing as she's been doing, so why should she rock the boat?

But of course she should rock the boat. It's her damned job. She doesnt do her job! (unless you like how she helped Rhee get that insane contract, etc and so on... the list goes on and on re her betrayals.)

I tell you, teachers - this fight isnt just against the GOP.

It is easy now, since WISCONSIN exploded, for Dems to appear as very pro worker, pro teacher, as they side with those who support collective bargaining - a NO BRAINER that even Joe Scarborough says he now supports! But just scratch below that and see what you find.

I guarantee, it aint pretty and it sure as hell aint worth our support. Rather, it is deserving of our strong opposition, party and union leadership be damned.

Posted by: NYCee1 | March 6, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

As a past supporter, I must express, yet again, my disappointment with President Obama.

As a teacher in Florida, I have to question the President's motives, if not sanity, for appearing with JEB and for adopting such a wrong-headed approach to education deform [sic].

Posted by: agapi | March 6, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

It's not what Obama says and does, it's what Duncan says and does that solidifies Obama's motives. Obama is good at the double-talk, but it's Duncan who is the real mouthpiece. He wants larger class sizes and more charters.

Obama is working hard not only to drive away his Liberal base, but like me, his Moderate base as well. He is also driving me to change my voter's registration to Independent which will hurt all Democrats in any primary, and work against his reelection.

Posted by: Schoolgal | March 6, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

911: George Bush and the Saudis

Voters contemplating putting another Bush in the White House should have the following facts should be forever seared in their memory:

• Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudis

• Reliable sources have found that the terrorists were financed, in part, by Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and other members of the Saudi Royal Family

• There had been long term personal, as well as, financial ties between the Bush and (Saudi) bin Laden families

• When confronted with the FBI evidence that these (Saudis) were receiving 757 and 767 flight simulator training in Phoenix, Vero Beach and Minneapolis and were planning to crash these fuel laden commercial aircraft into key US buildings…when confronted with this information, George W Bush shut down all three FBI investigations with the following quote:

“The Saudis are our friends, they would never do anything like that to us!”

Surely Americas can not be so naïve as to give poppy Bush one more chance to crush this country into third world status.

George Meredith MD
Virginia Beach

Posted by: georgemeredithmd | March 6, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Think we all need to write our representatives and state how wrong-headed Obama is in his policies on education reform and that the #1 mistake was making Duncan his secretary of state.

Re Jeb Bush; think Obama is overplaying his hand by trying to "get along" and compromise. Education has had to do far more than its share in compromising on important issues.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | March 6, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Not only are teachers unhappy with President Obama, many parents are unhappy. His sound bits are wearing thin and the evidence is beginning to show that his educational policies are really Republican policies on steroids.

I now consider myself an independent voter. At this point in time, President Obama has lost my vote. Fire Duncan and replace him with Ravitch. Then, I may reconsider.

Posted by: teachermom3 | March 6, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Does President Obama even talk to the administrators at Sidwell? I mean seriously??? How can you send your own children to a school with low teacher student ratios, that emphasizes "individual creative expression" and "scientific and artistic expression as well as physical activity."

Somehow I don't think you will find the Sidwell students working through test prep workbooks or sitting in front of computers working on test prep skills. Which, ironically enough, are the very things Title I funds love to fund.

If I could ask President Obama one question, it would be this: "How exactly does RttT and NCLB policies encourage a Sidwell-type education for the rest of us?"

Posted by: teachermom3 | March 6, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I meant to say....

How can you send your own children to a school with low teacher student ratios, that emphasizes "individual creative expression" and "scientific and artistic expression as well as physical activity" and then implement policies that have resulted in just the opposite?

Posted by: teachermom3 | March 6, 2011 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Actions speak louder than words and Obama got elected on "WORDS" and somehow feels that he can be "re-elected" on his WORDS. That he dares claim with WORDS that he supports the unions amidst his actions - creating and supporting RTTT policies - is true audacity! I don't think there is a public school teacher in this country who will want to vote for him in the upcoming election. Furthermore, anyone who belongs to a union in this nation cannot help but see just how Obama really "supports" unions. All the smooth words in the world are not going to do him any good. His recent support of Jeb Bush is outrageous. He wouldn't accept for one day at Sidwell, the style of education his policies are forcing upon title one schools! It is the Civil Rights issue of our time!

Posted by: teachermd | March 6, 2011 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Think seriously about Jeb. He may be your next President. Compared to the fools, clowns and idiots mentioned now (Romney, Gingrich, Palin, Huckabee, Trump, etc. etc.) Jeb Bush is a giant, a true colussus.

Posted by: sameolddoc | March 6, 2011 8:12 PM | Report abuse

As Sister Souljah was to Clinton, Teachers Unions are to Obama. Extremism must be repudiated, and now is the time.

Posted by: frankb1 | March 6, 2011 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Mayor Vincent C. Gray intends to name interim schools leader Kaya Henderson as permanent schools chancellor this week to replace Michelle A. Rhee, according to a source close to the situation.

Wow...really great news for DCPS students & parents!

Posted by: frankb1 | March 6, 2011 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee's reforms to continue in DCPS:

"Since her appointment as Interim Chancellor, Ms. Henderson has demonstrated that she has no intention of altering the path of her predecessor," Saunders wrote. "Through her actions, the relationship between DCPS and WTU has become incredibly strained."

You know if the WTU's Sanders is unhappy, it must be really good for DCPS kids.

Posted by: frankb1 | March 6, 2011 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Kaya Henderson would continue (and perhaps accelerate) the impressive reforms Rhee put in place at DCPS.

From Henderson's Teach for America speech February 12, 2011:

"We are making history right here in the nation's capital...Some of you think it's over, it isn't over ..we're just getting started....this is the revolution that we all dreamed about...we went through a bloody battle to build a firm foundation so that we can provide these students with the education they deserve."

Full speech at:

Posted by: frankb1 | March 6, 2011 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Anthony Cody wrote: "Obama's odd embrace of Jeb Bush"

Okay, Obie knows that he has lost FL for the '12 elections. Jeb is very popular in FL.
As a science teacher you should be able to do the math...

Posted by: illogicbuster | March 6, 2011 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, making history at DCPS all right ...

Posted by: mcnyc | March 6, 2011 11:08 PM | Report abuse

More from Kaya Henderson:

"I think what’s fascinating to me is that people are like, “Well, Michelle did this, what are you going to do?” We’ve been a team. Many of the reforms are the reforms of this entire team, committed to and have been implemented. Many of the biggest reforms that we are noted for have come out of my shop, so, it’s not a different reform agenda. It’s a continued reform at the same pace and sense of urgency.

When I think about my three priorities, moving forward, my immediate priorities are continuing the human capital work we have done. I am still convinced that having a great teacher in every single classroom, having an awesome principal at the helm of every school and having great central office people to support those front line folks is the greatest lever that we could pull to insure reform in the District.

Another priority is ensuring that the Special Ed reform continues and that we can actually realize the savings and capacity building that we can expect to have happen by bringing who are in non-public [schools] back.

Thirdly, implementing the Washington Teachers contract with fidelity. I think that we have a groundbreaking contract, and the world is watching what could happen. We have good will with the union, I sat at the table as our lead negotiator, and so we all, both sides, put in a lot to make this happen, and I think we can show the world what happens when you come to a good and groundbreaking contract. I am particularly interested in ensuring that is implemented well. The devil is in the details. Those are the three things that are front of mind for me as I take this roll on."

Full interview at:

Posted by: frankb1 | March 6, 2011 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Dear Brother and Sisters, care for an eye-witness account from Florida?

There was indeed a massive mobilization of teachers and their allies. Brother Cody accurately describes it as, "Florida teachers showed us last year how to fight this trend. They made a powerful alliance with parents, and put immense pressure on their political leaders to stop Senate Bill 6." This pressure included a massive demonstration in Tallahassee, volumes of testimony before committees of the Legislature, visits to the Legislator's home offices, a well-funded lobbying campaign run through the Florida Education Association, a mountain of e-mail and other communications to the lawmakers, the creation by parents of powerful YouTube videos that went viral on the Internet, and the wearing of red T-shirts in public schools around the State.

And SB6 sailed through both chambers of the Florida Legislature. Not a vote was changed!

As the legislation worked its way to the governor's office, Charlie Crist made nothing but supportive statements. Never was heard a discouraging word from Crist on SB6.

Then something happened that changed everything. The sleeping giant stirred.

I’m not at liberty to reveal the teacher’s name, but in Miami-Dade County, the largest district in Florida and the fourth largest in the country, a former US Army Ranger and conservative Republican began calling and texting his long list of contacts with a message. “You have a doctor’s appointment Monday” went the text and Monday referred to April 12, 2010.

Administration of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) got wind of the proposed action and began warning teachers of the dangers of it. Staffers for the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) fanned out across the District to instill the fear of job loss and even criminal prosecution in the membership. Word began to spread statewide and so the Florida Education Association (FEA) reminded all teachers that a sickout was a violation of law. Teachers should just keep on wearing their red shirts and e-mailing Gov. Crist and even if SB6 did become law teachers would still have the right to beg for mercy.

But on the appointed Monday 6,300 of Miami-Dade’s 21,260 teachers called in sick. The teachers of Miami-Dade County shutdown the District’s public schools with an act of civil disobedience! Lo and behold that next Friday, Gov. Charlie Crist did an about face and vetoed SB6. The FEA and UTD bent over backwards to give all the credit to Crist. Teachers were urged to write “thank you notes” to the governor. Our red clothing and e-mails had carried the day.

Very few thank you notes went to the now retired Gov. Crist from Miami-Dade. Teachers there knew better. We had done it! We had the power! When we moved together, nothing could stop us! And they knew it too! Not a single teacher among the 6,300 MDCPS teachers from the the illegal strike was fired or disciplined in any form or fashion.

Posted by: natturner | March 7, 2011 2:36 AM | Report abuse

Administrators, union bureaucrats, teachers, parents and students just celebrated the defeat of SB6 and President Obama’s friend Jeb Bush.

Much the same dynamic is playing itself out on a larger scale in Wisconsin today. The teachers united, the irresistible force, is flexing its muscle. Teachers shut down schools in Madison and several other districts for three days when Gov. Walker’s machinations became clear. He even threatened them with the National Guard but they are unbowed. They have Walker stopped cold.

But there are those who desperately try to give credit to 14 Democratic politicians because their power is the secret that must be kept from teachers around the country if the public schools are to be destroyed.

Posted by: natturner | March 7, 2011 2:39 AM | Report abuse

Thanks natturner. Although I am not sure we have stopped him "cold", we shall see.

You might be happy to know that a new poll supports teacher unions here by 60% and 70% of Wisconsinites would like a compromise. That doesn't mean we'll get it, just that amazingly the tide of public opinion has turned towards teachers.

On the sad side of things, our education budget has been hacked. The governor thinks it will be a good idea to give vouchers to everyone and at the same time is slashing the education budgets. Especially hard hit will be rural areas and the cities.

Next weekend Wisconsin farmers will drive their tractors into the capitol area to protest the huge cuts that rural areas will take with this budget.

By the way, it is not just the teachers who are protesting. Many average citizens don't like this whole Koch link, nor the FOX news lying about us. Also, people from all walks of life have been standing up for the teachers and other union members. Today a bunch of letter carriers were marching around.

I speak as a parent and a former teacher. I know how important it is to have good teachers, good curriculum and small class sizes.

Posted by: georgia198305 | March 7, 2011 3:48 AM | Report abuse

And my prayers are with Florida teachers. I remember you all standing up to that bill last year and I was rooting for you then and still am.

Posted by: georgia198305 | March 7, 2011 3:50 AM | Report abuse

As a Libertarian, I'll take President Obama over Jeb Bush ANY day. Bush is the primary supporter of the nation's worst gun control law: 10-20-Life or whatever it's called.

Use a gun in a crime, mandatory 10 years, fire a shot, mandatory 20 years, hit someone, mandatory Life.

So, I guess if someone fires a round into the air on the Fourth of July, it's 20 years behind bars. EXTREME.

Remember, law which grossly overpunishes crime is ITSELF crime.

Jeb Bush could learn a lesson or two about Constitutional freedom.... even from President Obama. And that's saying something.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | March 7, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

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