MAP Boycott Leader Jesse Hagopian Launches Campaign for Union Presidency

Back in October, when we saw Garfield High teacher Jesse Hagopian on NBC’s Education Nation Summit, and perused a blog he uses in part to promote his media appearances, we mused about whether he had higher aspirations. It appears he has.

Hagopian, a leading figure behind the MAP test boycott that captured attention around the country, announced yesterday he is running for president of the Seattle Education Association. The head of the teachers union is perhaps not the most high-profile job in the world. But it would give him a platform to voice his education “liberation” ideas, as he calls them on his blog, more loudly.

The May election will not just pit Hagopian against current president Jonathan Knapp, should the SEA head choose to run for reelection. The Garfield teacher is heading a whole slate of would-be union officers and board members, a full list of which will be shared at a formal campaign kickoff next Thursday. Knapp could not yet be reached for comment.

Talking by phone today, Hagopian says he is running to build upon the momentum created by the MAP boycott, which led Superintendent Jose Banda to let 9th graders opt out of the test. “There’s this new energy within the union that we’ve never seen before,” Hagopian says.

He says he would, as SEA president, continue to challenge what he calls the “industrial testing complex.” National Common Core standards are coming down the pike over the next year, and with them yet more tests. “Kids are already tested to despair,” he says. Hagopian also says he would take on the reform-driven model promoted by “billionaires who have never attended public school”--an allusion to Bill Gates, whose foundation has pushed various forms of reform, among others.

It remains to be seen just how much clout Hagopian has among his fellow teachers. But certainly his themes of over-testing and misguided reform have resonance in Seattle. Parent activist Sue Peters was elected to the Seattle School Board in November after raising the same issues.

Hagopian is wading into a tricky issue with Common Core, though. The Obama administration has made national standards a priority, and they have the support of many mainstream educators. While activists like Hagopian critique Common Core from the left, some on the right lambast the effort as intruding upon local control. In some states, the debate has been vociferous, but not in Washington.

If nothing else, perhaps Hagopian’s campaign will make it clear where local teachers stand.

 
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