Teacher Union officials Fall Back on Politics Power Play

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Without millions of teacher being forced to pay dues now, teacher union officials have nevertheless vowed to keep their political action power going.  Let’s see how far it goes without the  pre-Janus forced dues to finance them.  Sarah Schwartz has the story in Education Week.

In the aftermath of this spring’s teacher protests for higher compensation and more school funding, many educators have launched political campaigns in hopes of shaping education policies themselves. Across the county, 158 teachers filed to run for state office this year, an Education Week analysis found.

Through its See Educators Run program, a series of trainings for NEA members seeking local or state-level office, the nation’s largest teachers’ union is tapping into this political moment.

The organization hopes to create a “candidate pipeline” for members, said Carrie Pugh, NEA’s political director. “[We felt] like our voices weren’t being represented.”

‘Soup to Nuts’

For many of these first-time candidates, the union offers a gateway into the messy world of politics.

NEA launched the program in 2017, but the number of applications nearly doubled after this spring.

See Educators Run has held three trainings since 2017 and graduated about 200 educators. Any NEA member who is running for office, or considering a run, can apply for a space, and the program is free for participants. The two-day program was designed to cover the basics of running a campaign “soup to nuts,” said Pugh.

While See Educators Run is nonpartisan, Pugh says that the program seeks out candidates who are “values-aligned”: supportive of funding for public schools, collective bargaining rights, and accountability measures for charter schools. The NEA also requires that local unions sign off on candidates’ applications, as affiliates share the cost of training with the national organization. Training facilitators have backgrounds in politics: They’ve worked on campaigns or for organizations like Emily’s List and Emerge that train Democratic candidates to run for office.

Topics ran the gamut from high-level strategy (how do you craft a campaign message?) to the granular details of social-media communications (how often should you post to your candidate Facebook page?).

In one session, candidates learned how to devise a field plan for their race, calculating their vote goals and the number of volunteers needed to meet them. Parts of the process read like algebra homework: If one volunteer can knock on 15 to 20 doors an hour, and you need to knock on 1,021 doors, how many volunteers do you need to sign up for two-hour shifts?

“I knew that you had to look at registered voters and things like that,” said Thomas Denton, a retired teacher from Kentucky considering a run for state legislature. “But exactly how to crunch those numbers is what’s being answered here.”

Several candidates said fundraising would be their biggest challenge.

Know campaign-finance law inside and out, trainers told the candidates: Research the legal limits for how much individuals can contribute and the contribution filing deadlines.

In sessions, participants paired up to practice cold-calling for donations. The big takeaway? Make a clear, specific ask—even if it’s uncomfortable.