Educator-backed candidates focus on students, score victories in local elections


by Brian Washington

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Education activists made the difference earlier this month in several primary and local elections by working on political campaigns and turning out at the polls to make sure public school champions won their races.

In Philadelphia, former city councilman Jim Kenney won a six-way Democratic primary with a 2-to-1 margin and 56 percent of the vote. He ran a progressive campaign similar to New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, who ended up endorsing Kenney. His platform included such issues as establishing universal pre-K, raising the minimum wage, and ending “stop-and-frisk” police tactics. With Philadelphia being a heavy Democratic-leaning city, the winner of the primary is expected to take the general election.

One of the candidates Kinney beat out is so-called education reformer and “pro-business” candidate Anthony Williams. Williams got more than $6 million dollars for his campaign from charter school advocates who are reluctant to support the additional oversight and accountability voters say they want for charters.

From left to right: Ysleta ISD member Connie Woodruff, Ysleta Teachers Association President Arlinda Valencia and Ysleta ISD members Sotero Ramirez III and Miguel “Mike” Rosales.

Helen Gym, another candidate favored by educators, beat out 15 other candidates to win her at-large seat on Philadelphia’s city council. She too was targeted by charter school advocates with deep pockets but won by running on a platform that called for fully-funding public schools.

On the west coast, Los Angeles School Board Chair Richard Vladovic, who was endorsed by the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), which represents educators all cross the city, was re-elected to his seat. Scott Schmerelson, also endorsed by UTLA,  won a seat on the board as well.

Educators knocked on doors, called voters, and took to social media to get the vote out for the three UTLA-endorsed candidates and two of those candidates have won,” read a statement released by UTLA. “(Scott) Schmerelson shares many of our goals for the Schools LA Students Deserve and we look forward to working with him. We also congratulate Richard Vladovic on his victory. He is a champion for students and educators and we are gratified that voters kept him where he belongs–on the School Board.

Public education candidates even scored victories in the southwest, where Miguel “Mike” Rosales, Connie Woodruff, and Sotero Ramirez III (pictured above) all won seats on the Ysleta Independent School District. Ysleta is a community located within El Paso, Texas.

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