It is rough sledding for Chicago-area Democrats these days – from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his boss, the POTUS. But they can take solace from tiny thaws in the Cold War.
CSN Chicago reports that while Emanuel is still Public Enemy #1 with most municipal unions, he remains the darling of the city’s building and construction unions. He received public praise from the president of the Chicago Federation of Labor and, even better, sizable campaign checks from Local 134 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Local 562 of the Plumbers & Pipefitters union.
Meanwhile, NEA president-elect Lily Eskelsen Garcia told MSNBC that she met with Secretary Duncan shortly after returning from the union’s convention in Denver.
She characterized her conversation with him as “interesting” and “honest.”
In conversation, García is soft-spoken but firm. Based on her description of her conversation with Duncan, neither side is likely to yield on the issue of standardized testing anytime soon.
“I made it clear to the secretary that I don’t want to demonize anybody. He’s sincere and he’s absolutely wrong,” she said. “We agreed at the end of that meeting; we were very clear. He was very clear that he thinks we need to stay on what he calls accountability. I believe that has come to mean you hit your number and there’s a consequence for not hitting your number. That’s disastrous, I let him know that I would keep telling people that’s disastrous.”
Despite the education secretary’s outwardly nonchalant reaction to the NEA vote, García says he seemed “hurt” and “surprisingly confused.” In her estimation, he didn’t realize the level of anger he had conjured up.
“Arne Duncan is not a bad man,” she said. “I think he sincerely believes this stuff.”
Despite their differences, says García, they ended the meeting with a hug.
I’m not sure what the fire-breathers at the NEA convention were expecting to happen when they passed a demand for Duncan’s resignation, but I’ll bet it wasn’t this.