NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.
Three gubernatorial candidates and a National Teacher of the Year are among educators seeking office.
Millions of students and educators are back to school, signaling the end of summer. For 554 educators, however, this is not only the beginning of the school year but the start of a sprint to the ballot box this November. They are set to unleash a historic #RedForEdWave in state houses across the country, according to the latest numbers by the National Education Association, which include 512 Democrats and 42 Republicans. Slightly more than 56 percent of candidates are women. This number includes only candidates running for state house or senate seats.
“What we are witnessing is not a moment but a movement by educators running for office to fight for the public schools our students deserve,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Now, in the wake of historic walkouts and school actions, we have a chance to leave our mark and elect to office public education champions who will raise their voices and fight for our students and public education. This is our time. This is our movement. We are going to ride this #RedForEdWave straight to the ballot box in November.”
In addition to the 554 educators on the ballot, prominent educators running for office include Rep. Tim Walz, who secured the Democratic nomination for Minnesota governor; Tony Evers, Wisconsin governor candidate; David Garcia, Arizona gubernatorial candidate; Lynn Walz, Nebraska lieutenant governor candidate; and Rita Hart, who is a candidate for lieutenant governor in Iowa. The 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes, also won her partys nomination to represent the fifth Congressional District in Connecticut. Down ballot educator candidates include the superintendent of public instruction for Arizona, David Shapira; the Idaho superintendent of public instruction, Cindy Wilson; the Minnesota state auditor candidate, Julie Blaha; and the New Mexico land commissioner candidate Stephanie Garcia Richard, to name a few.
Jen Aniano, a high school English teacher at Michigan Loy Norrix High School is a first-time candidate. She is campaigning to represent House District 46 in the state legislature.” I am tired.” said Aniano. “I am tired of how undervalued education is in Michigan. I am tired of our own Betsy DeVos and her horrific agenda that has decimated and dismantled public education in the state of Michigan. A change is necessary. A change is coming. I want to lead the change.”
To help educators who make the leap into elected office and succeed at the ballot box, the National Education Association launched See Educators Run in 2017. The candidate-training program has provided more than 200 educators with details about setting up a campaign, fundraising, and communicating with voters.
One of the educators who participated in the NEA candidate-training program is Renee L. Miller from Scottsbluff, Nebraska. “I am interested in running for school board because I want to see students and teachers have access to adequate resources, families to have access to high quality early childhood education, and for our school to be the hub of our community,” emphasized Miller. “I am passionate about my community continuing to be a place where people want to raise their families, a place that produces contributing members of society, and a place where our children want to raise the next generation.”
The #RedForEd wave also comes amid strong public support for higher teacher pay and teacher walkouts and school actions, according to the latest PDK poll. According to the poll, 78 percent of public school parents say they would support teachers in their own communities if they went on strike for higher pay. Two-thirds of Americans say teachers salaries are too low.
“Educators are already leaders in their communities and are often the first to respond to challenges and opportunities faced by their students and families,” said Carrie Pugh, NEA political director. “In many cases, educators are running after seeing years of legislative neglect and the chronic underfunding of public education. Educators now are demanding more for their students. They are taking matters into their own hands and running for office. They are ready to step up for their students, their communities, and public education.”