Teaching Profession

Campaign Notebook

March 24, 2004 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Election 2004

AFT Joins Coalition Mounting ‘Parallel’ Campaign for Kerry

The American Federation of Teachers has joined forces with a coalition of Democratic Party interest groups to back the campaign of the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry, a spokesman for the union said last week.

The groups not only offer their political muscle, but also back it with millions of dollars in “soft money.” Such funding is not subject to the stringent donor limits and disclosure requirements governing candidates’ campaigns and the national political parties.

The coalition’s effort has become known as the “parallel” Democratic campaign because its activities cannot legally be coordinated with the official Kerry campaign. The AFT endorsed the Massachusetts senator in early February for the Democratic nomination.

“We have committed to helping him get elected,” AFT spokesman Alex Wohl said. “We put our money, but more importantly our person power, where our mouth is.”

The coalition’s efforts could face legal scrutiny by the Federal Election Commission, however. Federal law prohibits the national political parties from raising or spending soft money, or large contributions from corporations and unions.

So the interest groups have set up tax-exempt organizations known as “527s,” after the section of the tax law that covers them, to launch mobilization efforts and run ads with soft-money contributions. Some advocates of campaign-finance reform say the 527s still violate campaign laws, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog organization based in Washington.

Mr. Wohl said the 1.2 million-member AFT “will be involved with and contribute to one or more of these 527s.”

“It’s an important way to get the message out to voters,” he added.

Meanwhile, the National Education Association is a member of America Votes, a Washington-based voter- participation coalition that is among the groups involved in the parallel campaign.

But the nation’s largest teachers’ union has no involvement yet in campaigning for Mr. Kerry, because it has not yet made an endorsement for the Democratic nomination, much less the general election.

“We have run a few of our own ads about different issues, but we haven’t done anything directly on behalf of Senator Kerry,” NEA spokesman Daniel Kaufman said. “We haven’t actually officially recommended Senator Kerry.”

Mr. Kaufman said that doesn’t mean the 2.7 million-member NEA won’t back the senator. The union’s internal process for making an endorsement is still unfolding. The next meeting of the NEA’s political action committee is April 29, the earliest an endorsement for the Democratic nomination could be made, he said.

“We are a member of America Votes, but the purpose is to boost voter registration, and electoral-politics participation,” Mr. Kaufman said. “We have been strictly limited to trying to get out info on the No Child Left Behind Act and other issues.”

Illinois Senate Contenders

Illinois primary voters decided last week to pit Republican Jack Ryan, a Catholic-school teacher and Wall Street multimillionaire, against Democratic state Sen. Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate race to succeed retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Ryan each overcame a crowded field of contenders, who included former Chicago school board President Gery Chico, a candidate for the Democratic nod in the March 16 primary election. Mr. Chico’s campaign office did not return phone calls last week seeking comment on his future plans.

Both nominees have made education issues a priority.

After a 15-year career with the Goldman Sachs investment and securities firm, Mr. Ryan, 44, left in 2000 for a very different job. In a move that he calls “one of the best decisions” of his life, he took a job teaching at Hales Franciscan High School—a Roman Catholic school on the South Side of Chicago serving African-American boys.

Without offering specifics, his campaign Web site says that, if he is elected, Mr. Ryan would work to ensure that all children receive a “first-class education and a chance at the American dream.”

Mr. Obama, 42, who represents the South Side in the Illinois Senate, is a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago law school. He also has focused on education in his campaign.

“Our public education system is the key to opportunity for millions of children and families,” Mr. Obama said on his campaign Web site. “It needs to be the best in the world.”

He said that, if elected, he would push for programs to combat teacher shortages and fix the infrastructure of rundown schools. He also calls for more funding for the No Child Left Behind Act and for Head Start, according to his campaign Web site.

—Lisa Goldstein

Related Tags:


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Teachers’ Careers Go Through Phases. They Need Support in Each
Teachers experience a dip in job satisfaction a few years into their careers.
5 min read
Vector illustration of a female teacher at her desk with her head in her hands. There are papers, stacked notebooks, and a pen on the desk and a very light photo of a blurred school hallway with bustling students walking by in the background.
Teaching Profession Download Downloadable: 5 Ways Principals Can Help With Teacher Burnout
This downloadable gives school leaders and teachers various ways to spot and treat teacher burnout.
1 min read
Silhouette of a woman with an icon of battery with low charge and icons such as a scribble line, dollar sign and lightning bolt floating around the blue background.
Teaching Profession Massages, Mammograms, and Dental Care: How One School Saves Teachers' Time
This Atlanta school offers unique onsite benefits to teachers to help them reduce stress.
3 min read
Employees learn more about health and wellness options during a mini benefits fair put on by The Lovett School in Atlanta on May 8, 2024.
Employees at the Lovett School in Atlanta meet with health benefits representatives during a mini benefits fair on May 8, 2024.
Erin Sintos for Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion How Two Teachers Helped Me Weave a Dream
A journalist and debut book author dedicates her novel to two of her high school English teachers.
Anne Shaw Heinrich
3 min read
Image of nurturing the craft of writing.
Francis Sheehan for Education Week with N. Kurbatova / iStock / Getty