Teachers union chief finds ‘surprising common ground’ with Alexander

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García, visiting Nashville on Monday, said her organization has “some surprising common ground” with U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, according to The Tennessean.

She singled out his support of national board certification for teachers as well and opposition to the way Obama has handled No Child Left Behind waivers.

“I think there’s room for us to move on teacher-quality issues and on really the local-control issue,” Eskelsen García said. “Congress, I think, was way out of line in saying, ‘We’re going to act like a super school board for the entire nation.’ ”

Alexander, who is on track to become chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the new Republican-controlled Senate, last year introduced a rewrite of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind bill that he has hailed as transferring “100 percent” of decision-making on items such as Common Core academic standards and other policies to states.

He has dubbed Obama’s No Child Left Behind approach — and the use of giving federal Race to the Top money to encourage other policy changes — a trend toward a “national school board.”

But while Eskelsen García supports a rewrite of No Child Left Behind that would do away with that waiver approach, NEA has long drawn a hard line against school vouchers and charter schools — two areas that Alexander has promoted legislatively.

“The senator seems to be enamored with privatization when the jury is no longer out on that,” she said. “Whether you’re talking about franchised charter schools or vouchers, there’s nowhere in the world where anyone can say, ‘Look, we did it.’ … All the studies show there’s really no difference.”