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AFT Members Attend White House Town Hall Meeting

Ten AFT educators were among the invited guests at the White House on March 26 when President Obama hosted a first-ever online town hall meeting on the economy. The president answered questions submitted by visitors to the White House’s Web site as well as from those in attendance.

The AFT members who attended came from Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. Bonnee Breese, a teacher at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, was one of the guests President Obama called on to ask a question. Breese focused on charter schools and effective teachers, and how teachers can be involved in discussions about both of those topics. As part of his answer, President Obama pledged to work with teachers on all of his reform efforts. “The teachers are the most important people in the education system,” he said. “So if we don’t have teacher buy-in, if they’re not enthusiastic about the reforms that we’re initiating, then, ultimately, they’re not going to work.”

In a statement after the town hall meeting, AFT president Randi Weingarten said President Obama “gets it” when he says teachers need more resources to do their job well and need to be involved in the decision-making about which reforms will help raise student achievement.

“President Obama understands the link between a strong economy and a strong education, which is why he designated an unprecedented $53.6 billion in his economic stimulus package for education,” Weingarten said. “By having educators in the White House audience today during his innovative online town hall meeting, President Obama is getting the input from the very people who can help make our public schools and the economy stronger.”

The online meeting, which the president said is a vehicle to get insight and opinions from a broad cross-section of the American public, attracted incredible interest. More than 100,000 questions were submitted, and more than 3.6 million votes were cast by visitors to the Web site who were asked to pick the best submissions. The topic of education alone attracted almost 14,000 questions.

During the meeting, President Obama also answered questions on other topics, such as healthcare, higher education, jobs, small businesses, the auto industry and home ownership. A transcript is available here.

From AFT Release



  • 1 The MSM Comes Through! at More About Education
    · Mar 27, 2009 at 9:00 am

    […] out that the AFT/UFT Edwize blog didn’t tell quite the whole story about the online Q & A that President Obama held yesterday and glossed right over the most […]

  • 2 lorenzk
    · Apr 1, 2009 at 10:28 am

    What I want to know is can anyone pin-point a checklist of an “expert teacher?” I am a 2nd-year teacher and I do feel President Obama is correct in the idea that new teachers are “…isolated. They’re in this classroom — they’re sort of just thrown in to sink or swim.” I feel the pressure to be great, even though I don’t know what the exact definition of “great” is. I work with middle schoolers, and for those who have raised or taught this age group know, it is almost more about teaching them life skills and responsibility than it is about content. While my standardized test scores went up from the previous year’s, am I an effective teacher? I would love the idea of “peer reviews” except for the fact that I am of the opinion that a less-regimented classroom works. I have control, more so than some of my other colleagues, but I don’t mind movement or collaborative work and a little bit of talking. I like the noise in my math classes. My colleagues are of different opinions – they’re the old regime – where it’s come in, be still, pay attention for 60 minutes, and absolutely don’t talk. Would I get bad peer reviews? Would I give them bad reviews? My progressive superintendent gave me great evaluations and my principal says I do a great job. I have parents who love me and parents who hate me. I have kids who love me and kids who dislike me. If anyone can figure out a formula for the “expert teacher” pleaase let me know. Even the president chose not to give qualifications; he side-steped that land mine and said things we in the teaching community already know. Something needs to change, but truly how and how will it be measured? How will he (President Obama) have buy-in? Once again we’re left with a lot of questions; we’ll just continue to do our jobs – good, bad, or otherwise -until we know. “The teaching profession creates all others” is a motto I live by, teach, and believe in. I can be an expert on that.