Historic US Senate wins help advance public education, women


by Félix Pérez; image above: C. Cortez Masto, T. Duckworth, K. Harris, M. Hassan

It’s been a week since the presidential election, which continues to generate shock waves, but in a promising sign, the U.S. Senate will have four new members, all women, who support public education.


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In a close race, Catherine Cortez Masto defeated three-term Congressman Joe Heck to become the first Hispanic woman to serve in the Senate. The granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, the first in her family to graduate from college and the Nevada Attorney General for eight years, Cortez Masto, a Democrat, was endorsed by the 24,000-member Nevada State Education Association.

An opponent of the state’s universal school voucher program — ruled unconstitutional — and an advocate for legislation to reduce the number of high-stakes standardized tests, Cortez Masto said during her acceptance speech:

We have some things we have to fight for . . . a future for our kids in a public education system that is world class that they can obtain regardless of the ZIP CODE or neighborhood that they come from. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that any student who wants to go to college should have to mortgage their future to do so.

In Illinois, Tammy Duckworth, a decorated Iraq War veteran who lost both legs on a helicopter combat mission and a member of Congress, handily defeated incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk to claim the seat formerly held by President Barack Obama. She was endorsed by the 130,000-member Illinois Education Association. At the time of the endorsement, high school English teacher and IEA President Cinda Klickna said:

As a Congresswoman, Tammy voted to support early childhood education and grants and scholarships for educators. She supported increased compensation for educators and co-sponsored a bill to prevent student loan rates from doubling. As our U.S. Senator, Tammy Duckworth will fight to make sure public education remains able to attract and retain the high quality teachers all Illinois students deserve.

Duckworth, a Democrat, has focused on veterans issues during her two terms in Congress but she is no stranger to education. She sponsored the Career and Technical Education Opportunity Act to enable students to use their federal student aid on career and technical education programs. She also sponsored the In The Red Act to allow student loan borrowers to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates, saving billions of dollars in interest for more than 24 million people and providing 9.2 million students with an additional $1,300 in PELL Grants.

In another history-making election, California Attorney General Kamala Harris won the state’s open Senate seat. The 325,00-member California Teachers Association offered its congratulations: “Harris demonstrated that education is one of her top priorities with her focus, in part, on the need to foster more respect and involvement for teachers, rather than imposing mandates without their input, and to invest more in our public schools.” During her tenure as attorney general, the California Department of Justice has worked with school districts to help lower elementary school truancy.

Harris’ mother emigrated from India; her father, from Jamaica. Her win makes her the first Indian American to serve in the U.S. Senate and just the second Black woman.

And in New Hampshire, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan ousted incumbent Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, 48.0 percent to 47.9 percent. Hassan enjoyed the support of the 17,000-member NEA-New Hampshire, whose president, Scott McGilvray, in announcing the group’s recommendation of Hassan for the Senate, said:

Throughout her time in office, Maggie Hassan has consistently stood up for students, educators, and their families. As our Governor, Maggie fought to protect funding in our K-12 schools and has worked tirelessly to make college more affordable, and we know she’ll continue fighting for us in the Senate. . . Governor Hassan understands that our state and nation are better off when students have access to a quality education, and we are proud to recommend her to be our next United States Senator.

Hassan’s husband and daughter are both educators, along with both of her parents. Under Hassan, New Hampshire froze in-state tuition at its universities for the first time in 25 years and reduced tuition at community colleges. She also led efforts to reduce standardized testing in favor of more locally managed assessments.

Reader Comments

  1. Tammy Duckworth- teachers are with you and thank you for being a strong woman, and proud veteran who is always the smartest lady in the room! Go Tammy- NEA/IEA Proud Educators are always thankful for your support- in solidarity…

  2. These women are the real roll models that our young women need. Congratulations for each one and we know they will support education.

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