Education News

Educators running in 2019 eager to fight for public schools

By Amanda Menas

Educators stepped up to run for office in record numbers in the 2018 midterm elections. That trend has continued through 2019 as teachers, administrators, and support staff are running across the country for state offices. Looking to flip key districts, educators are running to support their students and advocate for public schools. Here are just a few of the hundreds of educators running in key states this year, all of them NEA members:

KENTUCKY

Kentucky was one of many states where educators rose up during the 2018 Red for Ed movement. Thousands of educators converged on the state capitol in April 2018 to protest changes to the state pension system which would hide the amount educators would receive each month in their retirement until they leave the classroom. This removes a great deal of stability from teachers in a state which does not provide teachers with Social Security benefits.

Becky Miller

Background: Miller spent 18 years as an elementary school educator followed by nine years as an assistant principal in Grayson County. Now retired, she also spent time on the Kentucky Middle School Association board of directors.

Race: Kentucky House of Representatives, District 18

Why she’s running: “I have lived in this community, worked in this community, raised my family in this community and volunteered in this community for the last 47 years. And as a Kentuckian, educator, and grandmother, I have grave concerns about the current political attitude toward public education and the impact it will have on future generations, my grandchildren and the economy of Kentucky,” Miller told K105.

LOUISIANA

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has supported educators by boosting salaries and defending scholarship opportunities, and students by investing $20 million in early childhood education. Governor Edwards also ended the corporate tax giveaway that harmed public schools and educators. LAE supports candidates in critical State Board of Education races, and throughout the state who are prepared to step up and protect public education.

Lori Callais

Background: Prior to retiring from the classroom, Callais taught across Louisiana at French Settlement High, Denham Springs High and at the Livingston Parish Adult Education Center. She has also led organizations that support children and adults with disabilities.

Race: Louisiana House of Representatives  District 71

Why she’s running: Callais prioritizes education as the number one issue on her platform. “As a retired teacher, I know that a strong workforce starts with providing a high-quality education to every student in Louisiana. This means fully funding our public schools, paying and treating our teachers as professionals and stopping our over-reliance on standardized testing.”

MISSISSIPPI

Mississippi is facing a public education funding crisis. Ranking last out of all the states and the District of Columbia in average teacher salary, educators are needed now more than ever to protect our students.

Pat Montgomery

Background: Once a vocational-agriculture teacher, Montgomery’s experience in office started as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2000.

Race: Mississippi House of Representatives District 15

Why he’s running: “I believe that the education of our children is the key to the future success of our county and state. I also know and understand that our schools need to be fully funded each year to be able to function. Great schools require great teachers, and they should be paid accordingly. I will work to support our schools and our teachers.”

NEW JERSEY

New Jersey voters will elect 80 new representatives in the general assembly this November. Where NJEA members stepped up in 2017 to fight for public schools and educators at the polls, their elected officials continued to advocate, supporting laws that save money for school districts and prevent privatization.

Benjie Wimberly

Background: Following his experience as an educator in Paterson Public Schools, Assemblyman Wimberly has advocated for student health and safety since being elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 2012. He also sponsored the school bus camera bill which passed through the state senate in 2017, allowing law enforcement against motorists who illegally pass school busses on the road.

Race: New Jersey General Assembly District 35

Why he’s running: Assemblyman Wimberly, whose wife also is a public elementary school teachers, says, “I have always been an advocate for our youth and a quality public education for all students. You can count on me to fight for educators, who make a child’s life better through education and, with that, comes the fight for pensions and health care. I will continue that fight.”

VIRGINIA

The Virginia Education Association has endorsed three candidates who could help flip both chambers of the legislature. In a state that spends ten percent less per student than it did prior to the 2008 recession, and pays teachers 69 cents on the dollar, increasing the number of elected educators is critical to protecting our public schools.

Karen Mallard

Background: Over the last thirty years, Mallard taught generations of students as an early childhood reading specialist and teacher at Holland Elementary School, North Landing Elementary School, and Three Oaks Elementary School. Mallard also served as the Vice President of the Virginia Beach Education Association.

Race: Virginia House of Delegates, District 84

Why she’s running: Mallard wants to “work to attract talented teachers and give every child in Virginia Beach they head start they both need and deserve.” She also is concerned about the local and national teacher shortage, advocating for smaller class sizes and healthier learning environments for students and educators.

Cheryl Turpin

Background: Currently representing District 85 in the Virginia House of Representatives, Delegate Turpin has worked tirelessly to strengthen Virginia Beach schools. She taught in high school science classrooms and as an A.P. Environmental Science teacher for eight years, eventually being nominated for the Teacher of the Year at Frank W. Cox High School. Delegate Turpin has worked with at-risk students to close the achievement gap and motivate them toward a college experience.

Race: Virginia Senate, District 18

Why she’s running: Advocating for intersectional issues, Delegate Turpin says, “We waste time and money on mandated testing that we could be using to educate our children and prepare them for a complicated world. And as a science teacher, I know firsthand that today’s failure to protect our environment will lead to unsafe air and water and rising sea levels that threaten Virginia Beach.”

Schuyler VanValkenburg

Background: After winning his election in 2017, Delegate VanValkenburg has advocated specifically for school safety regulations, specifically in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, he served on a select committee. He has also led the charge for increased funding for school counselors. Previously, Delegate VanValkenburg worked for twelve years as a middle and high school teacher in Henrico County Public Schools.

Race: Virginia House of Representatives, District 72

Why he’s running: Delegate VanValkenburg knows personally “the immeasurable impact a high quality education can have, and is committed to ensuring that for every child across the commonwealth.”

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