Educators Score Big Wins at the Ballot Box


by Felix Perez/photo above courtesy of Staci Maiers and the Ohio Education Association

All eyes were on Ohio Tuesday, November 8, as Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike delivered a stinging rebuke of the nation’s first-ever statewide voter referendum on the right of public employees to collectively bargain.

While educators and other workers celebrated the historic news from Ohio, other noteworthy races and issues were decided at the ballot box as well.

In Iowa, members of Iowa State Education Association organized and played a leading role in electing Liz Mathis and preserving narrow control over the state senate. With ideologically driven Republicans in control of the statehouse and the governor’s mansion, pro-public education advocates rely on the state senate to stop extreme legislation. Mathis won 56% of the special election vote. Her Tea Party opponent drew significant out-of-state funding, communications and support.

In Michigan, Paul Scott, chairman of the state’s House Education Committee, lost his closely watched recall election. Representative Scott was targeted by members of the Michigan Education Association and their allies for his attacks against educators, for cutting money from schools and taxing senior pensions while supporting a $1.8 billion tax cut for corporations. Under one of Scott’s bills, it would be illegal for a union representative to “solicit or encourage” any public employee to strike or to “conspire” to cause a strike, even if he or she did not actually engage in a work stoppage. Scott, who lost by 232 votes, is the first legislator recalled in Michigan since 1983.

Maine Education Association members partnered with other Maine citizens to support a ballot initiative that struck down a Republican-passed bill to repeal Election Day voter registration. Question 1, which passed with 61% of the vote, was put on the ballot after thousands of MEA members and other progressive volunteers collected more than 50,000 signatures to call a citizen’s veto on legislation passed by the Republican-controlled statehouse. Election day registration has produced a major boost in voter turnout in Maine since it was enacted in 1973, while just two cases of voter fraud have occurred over the past 20 years.

In Wake County, NC, progressive voters led by the North Carolina Association of Educators needed to win five of five districts to take school board control away from Tea Party candidates. NCAE-backed candidates won four seats in October, barely missing an outright win for the fifth seat. Yesterday’s runoff between incumbent Democrat Kevin Hill and Republican challenger Heather Losurdo marked a turning point in a high-profile, two-year battle over governance of the state’s largest school system. Hill won 52% of the vote.

Finally, control of the Virginia state Senate will likely be decided in a recount. State Senator Edd Houck, chair of the chamber’s Education Committee, is down by 86 votes. If anti-public education Republicans win the seat, the chamber will be tied, 20-20, giving the tie-breaking vote to the Republican lieutenant governor. Virginia Education Association members came out in full force for Houck, because without control of the Senate, the state and VEA are likely to face a barrage of challenges from anti-worker extremists, including major changes to the pension system and anti-union legislation. If Republicans win complete control of the General Assembly, it will mark only the second time since the Civil War that the party has simultaneously held the governor’s mansion, House and Senate in Virginia. Update: Sen Houck has conceded the election and will not be pursuing a recount.

Want to stay on top of the key races and issues leading to Election 2012? Sign up today for updates from Education Votes.

Reader Comments

  1. Add RI to this mess. We are now battling a draconian bill that was introduced by our Treasurer and Governor. The original bill went as far as to remove the COLA for those already in retirement for as much as 19 years and make current workers (even those vested) work for as many as 43 years or until age 67. Some modifications of this proposal were made by the joint senate and house finance committee yet it still promises to be a very damaging bill if it makes it into law. If passed, it will surely sink many public employees into poverty as many receive no SS and rely only on this pension.
    I would not encourage any young person with an ounce of self esteem to entertain teaching in this State or working for this State.
    State workers and teachers continue to hold up their end of the contract…faithfully making contributions (teachers contribute 9.5% of salary) to the system, yet the State feels it can unilaterally impose such drastic alterations.
    You try breaking your contract with your mortgage company and see what happens. Many of us who are able, will be forced to leave as we will not be able to afford to live here. And those who stay will eventullly be placed on the welfare rolls.
    Last one left…turn off the lights….

    1. The sad thing is that this legislation was crafted by a Democratic General Treasurer and is supported by the Independent governor who campaigned that he would not touch the pension system. In all probability, the bill will be passed by an overwhelmingly Democratic General Assembly.

  2. Illinois Education Assciation, teaming with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, coupled with AFSCME and plenty of private unions pushed out a “pension reform” bill brought forth by Republican Minority Leader Tom Cross. This bill was authored and lobbied usinf millions of dollars from the Civic Commitee of Chicago. This organization is a compilation of the richest one percent of Illinoisans, mostly CEOs of large corporations. The bill would basically destroy the pension system and also balance the budget completely on the backs of working/ middle class. The state has not funded the pension system properly, if at all for the last thirty years. Now there is a large deficit that the states mismanagement of their payments are responsible for. This is droping the bond rating for the state, thus the Civic Committee cannot kmaximize their profit so they want the workers of the state to solely balance he shortfall.

  3. Go team go !!! Finally people have had enough…….. I’ve always said they may have the money, but the people have the numbers……… hopefully the momentum continues….

  4. Just one more reason for good teachers to find another state then Virginia to teach in. I wonder how that will translate to another states retirement system where they value their education system.

  5. Idaho is gearing up for its next legislative session as well, as its high-profile state superintendent of public instruction, Tom Luna, is hobnobbing all over the country pressing this extreme agenda of privatizing public schools to anyone and everyone. Idaho has a referendum on the ballot for Nov. 2012 to repeal a slew of so called education reform laws that mandate 1:1 mobile computing devices along with taking online courses. The state of Idaho is pressing mandates down to local school districts, and taking away funding in the process. The disrespect in Idaho must end!!

    1. I grew up in Idaho, got my teaching degree in Idaho… and promptly moved elsewhere to start my teaching career. At the time, the state-mandated minimum pay for a teacher was $32,000, but healthcare for my family, etc would have brought my pay to under $20,000 a year, pretax, in every district in the state. With Luna in the drivers’ seat I couldn’t afford to take care of my family. Since then, things have just gotten worse.

  6. In Arizona Russell Pearce was recalled and lost his senate presidency. While more famous for his support of the anti illegal immigration law here he has also championed cuts to education and the loss of teacher rights and a change in our retirement system. Hooray for Mesa, AZ for getting him out as he was just using the senate for his own personal agenda and not following the will of the people!

  7. Sadly for us in Virginia, Ed Houck conceded the race yesterday electing NOT to hold the recount. The Republicans are gearing up to reintroduce a bill that would take away our Virginia Retirement System as a pension plan and change it to a defined contribution paid into a 403B subject to the whims of investments.

    The VEA is working hard to gear up for the next legislative session, but well done for the victories in the other states.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *