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Education Secretary Issues Challenge: NY Union Accepts

July 3, 2009

New York, NY — President Obama’s education secretary told 10,000 educators Thursday they need to accelerate the pace of reforms, and New York’s top education union leader is accepting that challenge. Education Sec. Arne Duncan challenged members of the National Education Association (NEA) to relax contract rules to recruit and retain teachers, especially in poor neighborhoods.

New York State United Teachers Union president Dick Iannuzzi says unions do want to step up and have real conversations about how they can affect quality.

"Sec. Duncan is going to get the leeway from us because he is making clear that he is there to accept a real role for teachers to be at the table and to be part of driving the train."

Iannuzzi is attending the NEA conference in San Diego, and participated in a 90-minute town hall meeting with Sec. Duncan. As expected, much discussion with Duncan surrounded the No Child Left Behind Act. Iannuzzi says Duncan gave educators an assurance that important changes are coming, should it be reauthorized.

"It would be reauthorized in a way that truly begins to address the needs of special needs students, English language learners, and high achievers. That was a message we wanted to hear."

The Obama administration allocated $5 billion in stimulus money for Sec. Duncan to award as "Race to the Top" money for districts that show the most promise in terms of reform. Iaunnzzi says an announcement could come any day on the awards, and he says New York has a good shot at those funds, because the state employs the kind of data and collaboration that Duncan is looking for as signs of reform.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY