American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, considered a leading candidate to become Secretary of Education when President-elect Joe Biden takes office next Jan. 20, said Nov. 11 that she looked forward to working with the administration in her current job—but stopped short of a Shermanesque declaration that she would turn down the cabinet post if it were offered.
"I'm honored by the mention, and I'm very, very happy to be working with the Biden Administration as president of the AFT," she said in a phone interview. "I love my job and I'm happy that we'll be dealing with an administration that's pro-worker, pro-family, pro-opportunity, pro-equality, pro-justice and pro-education."
Ex-NEA Leader in Running?
The New York Times had identified Ms. Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia, who earlier this year stepped down as president of the National Education Association, as the two leading contenders to replace Trump Administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose policies have been harshly criticized by both women. The NEA is the nation's largest union of educators, with 2.29-million members, and the AFT represents 1.7 million.
"There's lots of things to do, with the needed cleaning-up of the mess DeVos created on school loans, dealing with COVID, a real review of what accountability should look like that's about more than testing, and securing resources for social and emotional learning," Ms. Weingarten said.
Referring to Jill Biden's pledge that she will continue to teach after moving into the White House, the AFT leader added, "It's exciting to have as the First Lady an educator."
Ms. Weingarten personally endorsed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for the Democratic nomination eight months ago, but prior to that informed the heads of all her union's affiliates that the national union would have no problem with them endorsing Mr. Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Strong Clinton Backer
During the 2008 presidential primaries and the 2016 election, she strongly supported Hillary Clinton, with whom she developed a strong working relationship while president of the United Federation of Teachers after Ms. Clinton was elected a Senator from New York in 2000.
Ms. Weingarten began working for the UFT in the mid-1980s as a lawyer for the union's outside counsel, and eventually was hired as in-house general counsel by then-President Sandra Feldman. The daughter of a Teacher, she began teaching in the mid-1990s at Clara Barton High School, which made her eligible to run for union office, and she succeeded Ms. Feldman as president in 1997, when the latter woman stepped down to devote herself full-time to her duties as head of the AFT.
Ms. Weingarten made a similar transition in 2009, when Michael Mulgrew succeeded her as UFT president.
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