Education News

Victory! Educators ran and won in critical races across the country

By Amanda Litvinov / photo: Oklahoma teacher Carri Hicks hugs her educator colleagues after filing to run for state office in April.

For Oklahoma teacher Carri Hicks, her decision to run for the Oklahoma state senate was cemented the day that she met with a state senator serving on the education committee in the spring of 2017.

Oklahoma teacher and state senator-elect Carri Hicks says having a certified teacher in every classroom is a necessity, not a luxury.

He said she was lying when she told him there were 28 children in her 4th-grade classroom, a room built to accommodate just 18 students.

“It felt so defeating that I would take a personal day and leave the classroom to come and advocate for my students and then be met with such blatant disregard for the truth,” said Hicks.

Within weeks, she would announce her campaign.

Hicks is one of more than 1,800 current or former educators who ran for state legislative seats in 2018, according to an NEA estimate. An additional 100 educators ran for top state or federal seats, with many more running for seats on school boards and other local positions.

Many of those educator-candidates are from states that spearheaded the historic #RedForEd walkouts this spring: West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina. Oklahoma led the charge with more than 62 educators on the general election ballot. Nearly two dozen of those educators won their elections.

When the final results were in, the number of educators in the Oklahoma legislature had nearly tripled, going from nine to 25. They are both Republicans and Democrats.

Educator-candidates delivered some of the most exciting headlines of election night, in #RedforEd states and beyond.

In Wisconsin, state Superintendent of Public Instruction and former teacher Dr. Tony Evers ousted Gov. Scott Walker. Evers blasted Walker on the campaign trail for cutting state funding for K-12 schools by $1.2 billion in his first five years as governor, and decimating the collective bargaining rights of educators and other public employees.

Clearly, voters did not buy Walker’s claim in the weeks leading up to the election that he was a “pro-education governor.”

Minnesota voters gave U.S. Rep. Tim Walz—a former high school geography teacher and football coach—a decisive victory in the race for governor. Walz has served in Congress since 2006, voting in favor of full funding for special education and against voucher programs. Eleven other current and former members of Education Minnesota, the statewide educator union, were also elected to state offices.

Former Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes made history in Connecticut, becoming the first black woman elected to represent the state in Congress.

Equally heartening to public education advocates is the fact that educators all over the country won seats in state legislatures, where critical decisions are made about education policy and school funding.

“There’s a common misconception that if you have participated in education in any way, as a student or parent, that you are fully equipped to make policy on these very complex issues,” said Carri Hicks.

“Having educators who are fresh from the classroom will provide much-needed perspective on what is actually happening in our classrooms right now.”

Rochelle Galindo, a Colorado head custodian, was inspired by the educator walkouts to run for state office. She won in a landslide.

In Colorado, a late surge and record midterm voter turnout helped educator Rochelle Galindo win a seat in the statehouse. Galindo, who is just 28 years old, is a head custodian at Laffayette Elementary School and a member of the Colorado Education Association, and has served on the Greeley City Council—the first openly gay Latina to do so.

Like so many of her peers, Galindo’s run was inspired by the teacher walkouts this spring over education funding. Colorado currently ranks 46th for teacher pay and 42nd in per pupil funding, according to NEA’s 2017 edition of Rankings & Estimates.

“Every single day I see how hard they work, how all of us who are connected to kids work to provide them with the best education possible,” Galindo told the Denver Post. She is committed to fighting for education funding in the next legislative session.

“After decades of starving education funding, educators stepped up and said, ‘I can do better,’” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, a sixth-grade teacher who is now president of the National Education Association.

“They found themselves asking, ‘Why not have an educator in that lawmaking decision seat?’ And that’s exactly why they ran for office and voters elected them to serve.”

Educators also made historic efforts to help pro-public education candidates win.

Nearly 220,000 NEA members and their families were involved in the 2018 elections, as measured through phone banking and canvassing. That figure represents a 165 percent increase in activism compared to 2016, which is notable given that there is typically far less activism and lower voter turnout in midterm elections.

Local and state races were the biggest beneficiaries of NEA activism.

16 responses to “Victory! Educators ran and won in critical races across the country

  1. Thanks!!!!! You said it in way that everyone could understand. Sometimes saying certain things really do matter.

  2. The members of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators responded during this Election Season! The results were great for students, families, and educators. We will continue to push for better and keep our eyes and focus on 2020. We must continue to defend and protect the very foundation of our Democracy.. Public Education! Congratulations to All educators who won across this nation! Now the real work begins! We have your BACKS!

  3. Kathy Hoffman, a young Arizona educator (speech path) ran an amazing 18 month long race in her state to become their new superintendent of public instruction! She will be a much needed voice for teachers, students and their families.

  4. It is time for educators to implement positive changes in our government. From leading their classrooms to leading their communities – there are no other individuals better to speak on behalf of education than educators. Thank you for representing us!!

  5. The children of Wisconsin are grateful for every voter who helped elect Tony Evers governor! The cheers and happy tears could be heard throughout the hallways in schools across the state Wednesday morning!

  6. As an 18 year old future educator, this inspires me! Currently working on a political science minor, I hope to be in the same positions someday advocating for my future students. Thank you!!!

  7. As a retired high school English teacher who’s on the school board in the district I taught in, I know firsthand the importance of educators having a place at the decision-making table. Congratulations to all educators who ran, whether they won their races or not. You have to be in it to win it, and all who put their names out there proved their dedication to children and the awesome responsibility of educating them. Our country’s strength comes through public education.

  8. Who cares about their sexual choice? That has nothing to do about anything than liberal indoctrination, which IS the problem with schools.

    1. While I do agree that we don’t need to know about sexual preference it’s important to understand that our country is finally accepting the LGBTQ community in leadership positions so it’s included in the article.
      BTW, we talk about sexual preferences on a daily basis in all of our classrooms!
      Get a grip and get informed before spewing this nonsense! Take a look at what is happening in the very red state of Texas with their Republican curriculum. Let’s pretend that history never happened in that state by not including key historical figures in the curriculum. Nonsense!

      1. Thanks!!!!! You said it in way that everyone could understand. Sometimes saying certain things really do matter.

  9. Although I don’t live in the 5th Connecticut Congressional District I am elated that the 2016 National Teacher of The Year, Jahana Hayes, will be serving in Congress. I met her in the Fall of 2016 when she was the keynote Speaker at the CEA-R fall meeting. She was a dynamic speaker and as a newly retired CT public school teacher attending my first CEA-R meeting it was an honor to meet her and hear her!

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