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Head of Teachers Union Labeled "Terrorist Organization" by Rod Paige Responds to Resignation

StoryNovember 16, 2004
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Education Secretary Rod Paige resigned after a tenure defined by his defense of the No Child Left Behind Act. We speak with Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association which Paige called a "terrorist organization" for the way it opposed the law. [includes rush transcript]

Late last week, reports began to emerge that Education Secretary Rod Paige would not be around for a second Bush term. His tenure was defined by his defense of the No Child Left Behind Act, the biggest change in federal education policy in decades. He also attacked opponents of the Act in terms that shocked some. He referred to the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, as a "terrorist organization" for the way it opposed the law. Paige apologized but maintained his criticism of the union, which called for him to resign. Rod Paige also pushed hard nationwide for controversial private-school vouchers.

  • Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union with 2.7 million members.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Reg Weaver, the president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher’s union with almost 3 million members. Welcome to Democracy Now!

REG WEAVER: Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you called for Rod Paige’s resignation. He’s done it. Your response?

REG WEAVER: My response is that his leaving is not because of my calling for his resignation on February the 23rd. I had heard over two years ago, almost a year-and-a-half ago, that he was going to be leaving, so I don’t want to associate his leaving with my calling for his resigning on February 24th for calling us a terrorist organization.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what your criticism of Rod Paige is, and why he called you — your organization a terrorist organization, which I guess makes you the chief terrorist?

REG WEAVER: Well, I’m not criticizing Rod Paige, I’m criticizing what Rod Paige said. And for anybody, Rod Paige or anybody else, to call an organization that represents 2.7 million members working with students every day, for anybody to call anybody in that group a terrorist is not nice. During the time of this country, to have anybody to be called a name such as that, it really is not nice. That’s over, and so what we want to do is continue to work to make sure that we have an opportunity to work with others to make sure that every child has a great public school.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the No Child Left Behind Act, because that is left behind. That’s in place right now.

REG WEAVER: Well, the No Child Left Behind Act, the goals of the law are good. Those are the goals that we have been supportive of for years. Standards and accountability, that makes sense, and highly qualified teachers in every classroom, closing the achievement gap. Those are good goals. We support those. However, the way the law is currently crafted, it is practically impossible to implement as states and locals have found. We believe that the law, number one, needs to be fully funded. Number two, we need — we think that there needs to be more flexibility in the definition of adequate yearly progress. Number three, we believe that there needs to be flexibility in the definition of highly qualified teachers so that those who are, you know, duly highly qualified and certified go into schools where they are needed. And four, we believe that the support professionals in order to have professional development opportunities need to be able to take advantage of title one funds. And number five, we believe that supplemental service providers ought to be those individuals that are highly qualified and certified. Additionally, we believe that once the school has been identified for needing assistance, then that school should be given the assistance. It should not be targeted and labeled as a failure as an academic school.

AMY GOODMAN: Reg Weaver, I want to thank you for being with us, president of the National Education Association on the resignation of Rod Paige as Education Secretary.

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