Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Teachers union irks rank and file with Clinton endorsement

By Evan Grossman |

Hillary Clinton won the endorsement of one of the largest teachers unions in the country, and many of its members want to know how in the world that happened.

he American Federation of Teachers rankled its own rank and file by backing Clinton, a candidate who may not represent the best interests of public school teachers, so far ahead of the Democratic primary. Irate educators also blasted AFT President Randi Weingarten for polling only a small percentage of the union’s vast membership before giving Clinton its endorsement.

“Hillary Clinton, a product of public schools herself, believes in the promise of public education,” Weingarten said in a statement announcing the decision. “She’s ready to work with us to confront the issues facing children and their families today, including poverty, wage stagnation, income inequality and lack of opportunity. Hillary is the leader we need to help us reclaim the promise of public education and, indeed, of America.”

The AFT is a fundraising heavyweight that spent almost $20 million on political campaigns in the 2014 election cycle. The union plans to make more than 1 million phone calls and knock on 500,000 doors in the run-up to the 2016 election. But not all of its members are eager to campaign for Clinton, who the union also endorsed when she ran against Barack Obama in 2008.

The AFT’s Facebook page was deluged with more than 2,300 posts from ticked-off members, some demanding their dues be returned because they did not agree with the union’s endorsement. Twitter also lit up with annoyed teachers weighing in on the decision to back Clinton, who has spoken favorably about charter schools, Common Core standards and high-stakes testing policies, all of which most unionized teachers do not support.

In addition to Clinton’s education policies, some union members feel like they were left out of the selection process. According to the union, only 1,500 teachers out of the AFT’s 1.6 million members were asked about which candidate the union should back.

The Clinton endorsement came from the AFT’s executive board, based on polling data collected from the union’s membership earlier this year and from private interviews conducted with Democratic candidates.

The union published the results of that polling data on its website, but it doesn’t show very much. According to the document, the decision to back Hillary was based primarily on electability and name recognition, and there isn’t any specific information about Clinton’s positions on education policies.

The candidate interviews were not published prior to the endorsement.

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