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Duncan Caves to Teachers' Unions?

12:22 PM, Feb 16, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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So says the New York Post, which reports that Education secretary Arne Duncan edited a speech so that he wouldn't be criticizing the controversial "last in, first out" employment in a speech to teachers' union members in Denver:

"My view is that we need to look hard at the impact of staffing rules and policies on students, especially in low-achieving schools," Duncan said in the speech he delivered last night.

"That means recruiting the best teachers and then making sure our state laws, labor contracts and personnel practices support these teachers and keep them in their schools," Duncan said.

But Duncan slammed LIFO in an earlier draft of his speech, which was obtained by The Post.

"My view is that we need to look hard at the impact of seniority rules on students, especially in low-achieving schools. The goal should always be to maintain the most effective work force, regardless of years of experience or salary levels," he said in the earlier version.

"Last-in, first-out policies can disproportionately remove great newer teachers who take on tough educational challenges," the earlier draft said.

Unions often defend these rules that favor seniority, whereby teachers with more experience are protected from being fired regardless of teaching performance. But policies like LIFO and others have received increased scrutiny, particularly as a result of the anti-teachers' union documentary Waiting for "Superman." When the film first premiered in Washington, Duncan praised the documentary and called it an educational "Rosa Parks moment."

So why the last minute change in the speech? It's especially odd considering President Obama praised a Denver school in his State of the Union address that bucked the teachers' union.

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