Unions agree with Obama except when they don't

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After eight years of opposing education plans out of the Executive Office, teachers' unions are facing a new and harder problem: how to disagree with essential points of the Obama education agenda without drawing attention to the clash.

After President Obama's first major speech on education the AFT issued an ambiguous statement in which it professed that it "fully supports shared responsibility for education." State and local affiliate leaders, like Michigan AFT President David Hecker, assured the public that "our members do not have a problem with change or reform." Hecker went on to assert that his union wants to see American schools as the "envy of the world," especially if education begins early and goes late. It hasn't been lost on Hecker and other AFT officials that better education a la Obama should translate into more spending on schools and more jobs for teachers.

Response from the NEA president was notable for the objections he didn't raise. He resoundingly endorsed Obama's pay reforms, in spite of his union's previous vocal opposition to differentiated and performance pay. Perhaps the NEA is finding itself too overwhelmed by its general identity crisis to really worry about what the President had to say.