For two years as a presidential candidate, Barack Obama addressed educators gathered for the summer conventions of the two national teachers’ unions, and last year both groups rolled out the welcome mat for Education Secretary Arne Duncan. But in a sign of the Obama administration’s strained relations with two of its most powerful political allies, no federal official was scheduled to speak at either convention this month, partly because union officials feared that administration speakers would face heckling, reports the New York Times. The National Education Association meeting opened in New Orleans July 3 to a drumbeat of heated rhetoric, with several speakers calling for Duncan’s resignation, hooting delegates voting for a resolution criticizing federal programs for “undermining public education,” and the union’s president summing up 18 months of Obama education policies by saying, “This is not the change I hoped for.” “Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced,” Dennis Van Roekel, president of the union, told thousands of members gathered at the convention center. Obama and Duncan have supported historic increases in school financing to stave off teacher layoffs, but they’ve also sought to shake up public education with support for charter schools, the dismissal of ineffective teachers as a way of turning around failing schools, and other policies. That agenda has spurred fast-paced changes, including adoption of new teacher evaluation systems in many states and school districts, often with the collaboration of teachers’ unions. But it has also angered many teachers, who say they are being blamed for all the problems in public schools…

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staff and wire services reports