Biden Speaks to American Federation of Teachers in Detroit

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Vice President Joe Biden made an appearance in Detroit on Sunday, July 29, 2012, to speak at the convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Biden's appearance was protested by members of the Michigan Republican Party, who gathered outside the Cobo Center to condemn what they asserted were the poor policies of Biden and President Barack Obama, according to a WWJ/AP report.

The convention, which began on Saturday, July 28, is the first time that the AFT has held their annual meeting in Detroit in almost 30 years. It convened just one day after AFT President Randi Weingarten met with the emergency manager in charge of the Detroit Public Schools, Roy Roberts, to discuss new teacher contracts, as reported by the Huffington Post and other media outlets.

Here is some of the key information to come out of the AFT's convention as it went into full swing this past weekend.

* Weingarten and the AFT are focusing this year on what she referred to as a "wave of anti-union, anti-public education initiatives" that she says are forcing teachers to "go on the defensive over and over again," as quoted by the Detroit News.

* During remarks she made before her meeting with Roberts, she heavily criticized the current tone of education reform initiatives, saying, "A lot of so-called reformers try to dictate top-down standardized test-driven strategies that are heavy on competition and short on evidence and resources. They don't work."

* Saturday's events included an appearance by UAW chief Bob King. Calling teachers, particularly those in urban education, "miracle workers," King spoke to attendees about measures that have been enacted by right-wing politicians in recent years that have cut school funding, increased class sizes, and slashed support services for education, according to the Detroit Free Press.

* A key part of Saturday's activities was the passage of a resolution reiterating the AFT's stance that "testing should inform education, not impede it," as quoted by the Detroit Free Press.

* The third day of the convention featured the appearance by Biden and his wife Jill, herself a community college instructor. The AFT and its sister organization, the National Education Association (NEA), have endorsed President Barack Obama for reelection this November, as reported by Reuters.

* Weingarten said in her remarks that AFT officials chose Detroit as the site of their convention this year due to their desire to support their fellow teachers in the Detroit Public Schools, who have seen unprecedented cuts and uncertainty following Roberts' appointment in 2009.

* The AFT serves some 1.5 million educators throughout the U.S., while the NEA accounts for an additional 3.2 million educators, as reported by Reuters.

Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan with a lifelong interest in politics and public issues.

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