Go, Jeffrey, go.
March 4, 2004, 9:46PM
Teacher of year upset by Paige’s comment
Says he skipped awards in protest
BOSTON — The Massachusetts teacher of the year refused to attend an event in Washington honoring the nation’s top educators because U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige called the nation’s largest teachers union a “terrorist organization.”
Jeffrey R. Ryan, a history teacher at Reading Memorial High School who lost a friend in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said he could not accept Paige’s apology for his Feb. 23 comments about the 2.7-million-member National Education Association.
Paige, former superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, said the remark was a “bad joke.” But Ryan said: “Nazi death camps aren’t funny. Lynching people isn’t funny. Famine isn’t funny, and terrorism isn’t funny. I just couldn’t show up and shake that man’s hand after he made those remarks.” [emphasis mine -b]
Forty-four teachers of the year attended Monday’s conference.
The secretary made the comment in a private meeting with governors. He later apologized for his choice of words but maintained that the union uses “obstructionist scare tactics.” He apologized again Monday to the teachers of the year.
“I can assure you, I have nothing but the highest esteem for teachers and the teaching profession,” he said.
The NEA called on President Bush to fire Paige. The White House said Paige’s job is safe.
Ryan, 49, said his refusal to attend the conference was also a protest of the 2-year-old No Child Left Behind Act, which he called a “stealth tactic by the Bush administration to undermine public schools.”
The law calls for expanded standardized testing, qualified teachers in all core classes, school choice and other reforms.
Education Department spokeswoman Susan Aspey said the administration has pumped billions more into public education. Had he attended the conference, Ryan could have expressed his opinion directly to Paige, she said.
NEA spokeswoman Melinda Anderson called Ryan’s comments “very eloquent.”
The No Child Left Behind act of 2001 is 670 pages long.