The world has indeed changed. It used to be CW that senators couldn’t be elected president. Now we have a president who wants to be a senator…AFT/UFT President Randi Weingarten is in the mix to be the next senator from New York. Even Page Six weighs-in.
I hope this doesn’t happen though, and here’s why. There can be little doubt that Weingarten would be a good senator. She’s a very good politician, tenacious and hardworking, smart, and agree or disagree with her, she cares.
So what’s the problem? It’s that there are other people who can be a good senator from New York but looking around the teachers’ union scene you don’t see a lot of national leaders with the potential to be transformative and move things along past today’s debates. There are some promising up and comers but if Weingarten leaves now it will leave a vacuum. She’s already doing two jobs, adding a third is probably untenable even for her.*
Obviously, there are some important differences between Weingarten and many in the reform community, including myself, and big issues yet to be resolved. Still, if you want to see progress on schools it’s important to recognize the extent to which in different ways there is some interdependency right now in terms of moving the ball on reform at scale and where she stands relative to the situation overall and why that matters.
*I guess there is precedent here though. In Rhode Island the head of the Providence Teachers’ Union serves in the statehouse there, too. That’s always struck me as a great example of union-initiated efficiency improvements in an industry…cut out the middleman!