Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 14
In Protest States, Droves of Teachers Running for Office
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
Brandi Simons for Education Week
dates were unopposed in the primary,
bringing the total to 35 candidates
still in the race.
In Kentucky, 24 teachers filed to
run for the statehouse, including R.
Travis Brenda, who defeated Jonathan Shell, the House majority floor
leader, in the GOP primary. Brenda
and 17 other teachers will be on the
ballot in November.
In Arizona, where the primary
election is not until Aug. 28, five
teachers have filed for office. And
in West Virginia, six teachers have
filed. Only one was knocked out in
Educators in these states say this
has been an unprecedented display
of teacher activism in state politics.
While teachers running for office is
not uncommon, it's usually not so
many or on such a large scale. The
closest example might be the wave
of about 40 teachers who sought office in Oklahoma in 2016. But in
that race, only about five teachers
were victorious, and candidates now
say they're more organized than the
rookies two years ago.
Some of the campaigning this
time around can be attributed to
the teacher protests this spring: For
instance, the Oklahoma candidatefiling window fell near the end of
the nine-day walkout, when teachers were already fired up and at the
Other teachers filed to run before
the demonstrations this spring, yet
they say the protests brought a new
energy into their campaigns.
"When I announced my candidacy
last May, I couldn't have paved a better way than what has happened
with teachers within the state," said
Christine Marsh, a high school English teacher in Arizona who is running for an Arizona state Senate seat
as a Democrat. "So many people in
Phoenix are now really plugged in
with what's happening to education
and low teacher pay. It has made voters and constituents far more knowledgeable about what's going on and
far more eager to solve the problem."
The walkouts and protests
also painted many of the current
legislators as hostile toward teachers.
In Kentucky, the House leader who
lost his primary to a math teacher
was the co-author of the controversial
pension-reform bill that sparked
widescale protests. Furious educators
mobilized to campaign against him
and ultimately voted him out of office.
In Oklahoma, Jennifer Esau, an
early-childhood special education
teacher, is running to unseat state
Sen. Marty Quinn, a Republican.
Quinn made headlines during the
walkout for telling protesting teachers that if they're unsatisfied with
their pay, they should find a new profession. (He later said his comments
were taken out of context.)
Esau, a Democrat, said the incident was just another example of
how negative legislators have been
to teachers for years. But the headlines gave a boost to her campaign:
Jennifer Esau, an Oklahoma teacher who is running for a state Senate seat, in Claremore, Okla., leaves a house
with her daughter Isabelle, as they canvass her district for votes.
"With all his remarks, he raised me
a lot of money in those two weeks [of
the walkout]," she quipped.
WHO ARE THE TEACHERS
RUNNING FOR OFFICE?
'Why Not Me?'
According to an Education Week analysis, at least 135 teachers
have filed to run for statewide office around the country, mostly
in Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. Those
are four states where statewide protests over pay and school
funding this spring shut down schools.
Many of the teachers who have filed
for office are first-time candidates.
They say they never expected to enter
politics but grew so frustrated with
continued cuts to education spending
that they felt like they had no other
"This is not something I've ever
dreamed of or hoped for, ... but it
was just too difficult to do what I do
without better resources," said Esau,
who began her campaign in 2015. "I
don't see anyone else stepping up, and
sometimes you just look at yourself
and think, why not me?"
Cody Thompson, a high school social studies and civics teacher in Elkins, W.Va., said he filed to run for the
state House at the start of this year,
frustrated with low teacher pay, rising insurance premiums, and constant
changes to state testing policies.
"The anger and resentment that led
to the strike, those feelings have been
here for a long, long time," he said. "A
lot of teachers had been dissatisfied
with people who have no experience
in education, no real vested interest in
education, dictating laws and dictating policy."
In his Democratic primary race in a
two-representative district, Thompson
got more votes than both the incumbents, knocking one out. In November,
he will face the remaining incumbent
and two Republican candidates.
"A lot of people have told me, 'We
think we have enough lawyers in
Charleston,' " he said, citing as beneficial his background as a young,
working teacher. The strike was also
a boon to his campaign, he said, as it
helped bring attention to some of the
problems facing education in West
Virginia. A major problem, Thompson
said, is losing teachers to better-paying border states.
"I've considered leaving myself,
but I've decided not to give up and
change it in some ways," he said. "If I
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | July 18, 2018 | www.edweek.org
18 (D) 5 (R) 1 N/A
4 (D) 2 (R)
filed for office
filed for office
43 (D) 21 (R) 3 (I)
filed for office
34 elementary school teachers
26 middle school teachers
66 high school teachers
SOURCE: Education Week
filed for office
can't change it from the classroom, I'll
change it from the statehouse."
Teachers running for office have to
walk a fine line between their passion
for education and their concern about
becoming single-issue candidates.
Many of them, like Jenny Urie, a
high school social studies teacher
who's running for a Kentucky House
seat, say their No. 1 concern is putting
more money into public schools.
"We've got to have adequate funding
for our classrooms," said Urie, a Democrat. "I have these nightmares about
having 40 kids in a classroom and one
pencil for us all to share."
Esau said she wants to tackle some
non-education-related issues, like the
high numbers of incarcerated people
Still, she believes education is the
root of many of the state's problems:
"If you do take care of education, a lot
of these other things will be helped,"
Variety in the Field
Among the 135 candidates who are
teachers in Education Week's analysis,
about 58 percent are women.
"It's part of this large wave of
women running in 2018," said Nicole
Carlsburg, the executive director of
the Barbara Lee Family Foundation,
a nonpartisan organization with the
goal of advancing women's representation in politics.
She said thousands of women, many
of whom are first-timers, are running
for office at all levels this year.
Research from the group has found
that voters tend to give women candidates from both parties an advantage on the issue of education. While
the research didn't account for candidates who are teachers, Carlsburg
said voters tend to appreciate it when
candidates talk about their personal
"Voters are open to candidates who
haven't held office before," she said,
adding that these teachers "are deciding to step up, and that's really resonating with voters."
There are at least 18 social studies
teachers who have made the run-a
ready-made civics lesson-although
many candidates are hesitant to discuss their campaign in the classroom.
Thompson, the West Virginia civics
teacher, said his students have asked
him about his campaign, and while
he doesn't discuss politics with them,
sharing the logistics of his experience
"brought real life into the classroom."
Lily Eskelsen García, the president
of the National Education Association, said candidates who are teachers
would bring a fresh, much-needed perspective to state legislatures.
"We've got plenty of businesspeople,
we have plenty of rich people, we have
plenty of lawyers," she said. "Why not
have somebody with that commonsense community grounding that a
school teacher would have?"
Librarian Maya Riser-Kositsky
contributed to this story.
See the full database of teachers
running for state office.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - July 18, 2018
Conservative Groups Push Teachers To Drop Their Unions
Our Students Don’t Get Enough Civics, Principals Say
Next Up in Teacher Activism: Run for State Office
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Alexa Moves Into Class, Raising Alarm Bells
In K-12, 20 Percent of Staff Say #MeToo
News in Brief
Right-to-Read Lawsuits Press On, Despite Court Setback
Educating Migrant Students in Shelters
Gates Teacher-Effectiveness Program Shows No Payoff
After Janus, Defiant Union Looks Ahead
Shock Waves for Unions After Stinging Defeat In Janus Case
Volunteering Rates Dropped Among Young Americans
Trump Rescinds Obama-Era Guidance On Diversity at Schools
Trump Team Set to Revisit ‘Voc Rehab’ Regulations
U.S. Supreme Court and Schools: 2017-18
Kennedy’s K-12 Legacy a Deep One
Pick for U.S. Supreme Court Has Light Record Of Education Rulings
Inside a Merger Plan for Ed., Labor Depts.
Education Action in Congress: A Midsummer Roundup
Betsy DeVos: What We Can Learn About Education From Europe
Randi Weingarten: ‘We Are in a Race for The Soul of Our Country’
Lily Eskelsen García: We Aren’t Going Anywhere
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Mark A. Elgart & Belle S. Wheelan: How to Prepare for the Future of School Choice
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - In K-12, 20 Percent of Staff Say #MeToo
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 2
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 3
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - News in Brief
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 5
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Right-to-Read Lawsuits Press On, Despite Court Setback
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 7
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Educating Migrant Students in Shelters
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Gates Teacher-Effectiveness Program Shows No Payoff
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Shock Waves for Unions After Stinging Defeat In Janus Case
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 11
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Volunteering Rates Dropped Among Young Americans
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 13
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 14
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 15
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 16
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 17
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 18
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Trump Team Set to Revisit ‘Voc Rehab’ Regulations
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Kennedy’s K-12 Legacy a Deep One
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Pick for U.S. Supreme Court Has Light Record Of Education Rulings
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Inside a Merger Plan for Ed., Labor Depts.
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Education Action in Congress: A Midsummer Roundup
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 24
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 25
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Betsy DeVos: What We Can Learn About Education From Europe
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Lily Eskelsen García: We Aren’t Going Anywhere
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Letters
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 29
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 31
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - Mark A. Elgart & Belle S. Wheelan: How to Prepare for the Future of School Choice
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - CW1
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - CW2
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - CW3
Education Week - July 18, 2018 - CW4