NEA’s defective election reflections

By Larry Sand
November 13, 2018

Teachers union wants us to believe that it won big on Election Day…in spite of the facts.

On November 7th, the National Education Association proclaimed “Voters deliver big wins for public education.” The union insisted that Election Day saw pro-education candidates sweep into office at every level of government. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García was oozing as she declared, “The victories marked a major victory for students and education and serve as a mandate for real change in our public education system.”

And then there’s reality. Focusing on three states where teachers struck recently and the so-called #RedforED wave most strongly asserted itself, the union didn’t do so well. As Mike Antonucci reports, in West Virginia, 13 educators won and 25 lost, and 10 of the 13 educator winners were incumbents. In Oklahoma, 17 educators were victorious and 31 were not. While 14 educators won in Arizona and only seven lost, 11 of the 14 winners were incumbents.

The education activists did not manage to flip governor’s seats in those states either. Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey easily defended his seat against David Garcia, a professor who had a background in education policy. In Oklahoma, incumbent Republican Governor Kevin Stitt beat tax-hiker Democrat Drew Edmondson by double digits. (There was no gubernatorial election in West Virginia this year.)

Nationally the results were similarly disappointing for the #RedforED crowd. According to an Education Week analysis, of 177 educators who ran for state office, only 42 emerged victorious. It’s true that activist teachers and their unions could gain some satisfaction over gubernatorial wins in Wisconsin, Illinois and Kansas. Republicans Scott Walker, Bruce Rauner and Laura Kelly, all perceived to be less friendly to traditional public schools, lost to their Democratic challengers.

While overall the political push by the unions on Election Day was a dud, there are several important takeaways that must be noted. First, the NEA lies…bigly. The union’s above spin on Election Day is blatantly fallacious. Additionally, as I wrote last week, NEA wildly exaggerated the number of teachers running for office, as they included incumbents and teachers who hadn’t taught in years. For example, Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson worked as a teacher for a short time in the mid-1970s. Also, The Wall Street Journal’s Michelle Hackman reports that the NEA’s claim of 1,800 teachers running for office was bogus and that there were actually more teachers who ran in 2016 than in 2018.

Secondly, so much of the media was in the tank for the NEA – using the union’s whoppers as gospel. As veteran education writer Alexander Russo notes, “A number of outlets – Vox, Christian Science Monitor, and Associated Press among them – have reported seemingly large numbers of educators running for office in 2018, based on numbers provided by the National Education Association.” Russo goes on to explain that this is hardly an isolated case, and uses the media’s hyperbole about the prevalence of campus shootings as a prominent example. (Voters weren’t buying that either, and the anti-gun crowd had a bad day at the polls last Tuesday.)

Third takeaway: In reporting about the election, The Atlantic’s Alia Wong points to a recent Gallup Poll, in which just 2-3 percent of adult Americans see education as the most important problem facing the country today. Among the issues that those polled see as more pressing are the economy, healthcare/insurance and illegal immigration. While these concerns are certainly central to many of our lives, I strongly maintain unless we do something to address our traditional public schools, many of which are failing in their responsibility to teach basic reading skills and civics, we will have an electorate incapable of understanding any of the other problems.

An uninformed electorate and a media with a powerful agenda is a recipe for disaster. While the midterm election was a pretty even affair overall, we cannot take anything for granted. As the teachers unions and their mainstream media minions will continue to try to manipulate us, the U.S. citizenry needs to be more engaged and eternally vigilant.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.