SEATTLE - The president of the American Federation of Teachers is reminding teachers they are part of the solution for failing schools, not the problem.
Randi Weingarten opened the federation’s convention on Thursday by responding to critics who hold teachers responsible for failing schools.
“It is simply wrong to suggest that there is an epidemic of bad teachers, and at the same time ignore poverty, budget cuts, the absence of curriculum and the attrition of good teachers,” Weingarten said.
She vowed to lead a union that doesn’t look for someone to blame but instead proposes solutions to education issues such as the achievement gap between children of different economic and ethic backgrounds.
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Weingarten addressed more than 3,000 people gathered at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.
Bill Gates, an avid supporter of charter schools, which are mostly not unionized, was invited to speak to the conference on Saturday.
Asked about the invitation, Weingarten said the federation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation don’t need to agree on every issue in order to engage in dialogue about what needs to be done to fix America’s schools.
“The real issue is we have to engage with people,” she said.
The federation – one of the nation’s two big teachers unions – has been praised by Gates Foundation staff and others for its willingness to try new approaches to old problems.
Union locals have partnered with several school districts to get major Gates grants from the foundation’s teacher effectiveness project.