American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten endorsed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign Saturday, days before crucial Super Tuesday contests in 14 states.
Weingarten backed Warren in her personal capacity, but the national teachers union has not yet picked a candidate. Her endorsement comes about a week after AFT leadership encouraged affiliates to support former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, or Warren.
In her endorsement, Weingarten cited Warren’s plans for education, health care, and student debt, and her qualities as a “smart and strategic debater and thinker.”
Warren has touted her personal connections to education, including a year teaching special education early in her career. And she has championed policy positions popular with unions, criticizing charter schools and the use of test scores for high-stakes purposes, and calling for additional protections for employee organizing. Her education plan calls for quadrupling federal Title I funds for education students from low-income families and “fully funding” the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
“And after a decade of disinvestment, teacher bashing and testing that supplanted the needs of children, only to be followed by the DeVos agenda to defund and decimate public education in favor of failed vouchers and privatization, it would be great to send a teacher to the White House,” Weingarten wrote in a blog post published hours before she was expected to introduce Warren at a rally in Houston.
Weingarten’s decision to make a personal endorsement comes after tension surrounding the 2016 election, when some union members who backed Sanders said AFT was too quick to support former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. The union has responded to those concerns this year, by holding discussions with many candidates around the country and by co-sponsoring a daylong forum in December.
The AFT’s Massachusetts affiliate and the Boston Teachers Union both endorsed Warren last month. She also has the personal backing of Jeff Freitas, the president of the California Teachers Union who serves as a vice president of AFT.
Sanders has won the backing of many prominent local groups, including the teachers union for Clark County, Nevada, which helped secure his victory in the state’s caucuses; the United Teachers Los Angeles; and the unions for Oakland and Washington, D.C teachers.
AFT Secretary-Treasurer Loretta Johnson endorsed Biden this week.
Other large local unions have yet to endorse. A divided Chicago Teachers Union voted to remain neutral. The United Federation of Teachers in New York, the largest local union in the country, hasn’t yet picked a candidate, to the frustration of some of its members.
Learn more about the 2020 candidates’ positions on education in our election tracker.
Photo: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, center, speaks to striking Chicago teachers alongside American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in October 2019 . --AP Photo/Teresa Crawford