Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Teaching Profession

Citing Experience and Record, AFT Endorses Kerry

By Sean Cavanagh — February 11, 2004 4 min read

Citing John Kerry’s support for workers’ rights and his personal accomplishments outside politics, the 1.3 million-member American Federation of Teachers last week endorsed the Massachusetts senator for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts speaks last July to an American Federation of Teachers conference in Washington. The union last week endorsed him in the Democratic presidential race.
—Photograph by Allison Shelley/Education Week

In lending the AFT’s collective voice to the buoyant Kerry campaign, leaders of the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union pointed to the candidate’s pledges to reduce class sizes, bolster teacher recruitment and retention, and channel more funding into the No Child Left Behind Act.

The union delivered its endorsement Feb. 4, one day after Mr. Kerry won five of seven races in state Democratic primaries and caucuses. One AFT official predicted that the union’s support would give the senator early momentum in a general-election battle against President Bush, assuming Mr. Kerry goes on to become the Democratic nominee.

“If you look at where our membership is strongest, it’s in battleground states,” AFT spokesman Alex Wohl said.

The endorsement was based on a unanimous vote of the organization’s 40-member executive council, which convened in Florida last week. The decision was based partly on candidate responses to questionnaires, as well as feedback taken from state and local AFT members, Mr. Wohl said.

The union backing also came only days before the Feb. 7 caucuses in Michigan, traditionally a bastion of organized labor. Leaders of the AFT’s Michigan affiliate said they would work to inform their 35,000 members of the national organization’s endorsement.

Sen. Kerry had already secured the endorsement of the 157,000-member Michigan affiliate of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, on Jan. 30.

The national organization of the 2.7 million-member NEA has not yet endorsed any of the Democratic candidates. It could issue such an endorsement as early as Feb. 12, when its political committee will meet, but it has no immediate plans to do so, said Daniel Kaufman, an NEA spokesman.

“I will make teachers a priority,” Sen. Kerry said in a Feb. 4 statement after the AFT’s endorsement. “Everything we know tells us that good teachers make all the difference. But our teachers are drowning in praise from politicians while they’re parched for the support they need.”

Taking Labor From Dean

Over the past two months, a number of state affiliates of teachers’ unions had rallied behind the candidacy of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. The New Hampshire NEA affiliate recommended Mr. Dean before that state’s Jan. 27 primary, where he finished second behind Sen. Kerry.

In October, Mr. Dean also won the endorsement of the NEA’s 335,000-member affiliate in California, which will stage its primary on March 2. Mike Myslinkski, a spokesman for that state union, said the organization had no plans to change its endorsement of Mr. Dean, whose showings in the early contests have fallen far short of earlier expectations.

Teachers praised Mr. Dean for being much less reserved in his criticism of the No Child Left Behind law than his rivals, some of whom, like Sen. Kerry, voted for it in Congress(“‘No Child’ Law Faulted in Democratic Race,” Jan. 14, 2004.)

But recently, Sen. Kerry has lured more teachers’ unions into his camp. Like other Democratic candidates, the senator accuses President Bush of underfunding the No Child Left Behind Act. He pledges to push for higher teacher pay and school programs to improve student discipline.

The senator would focus on “fixing our aging school buildings, reducing class size, recruiting and retaining quality teachers, and giving them the resources they need to do their jobs,” AFT President Sandra Feldman said in a statement.

The national AFT, which represents 800,000 teachers in K-12 schools, in addition to higher education employees, health- care professionals, and other public employees, also pointed to issues well outside the classroom, such as Mr. Kerry’s military service in Vietnam and his long experience as an elected official.

Sen. Kerry had angered teachers’ unions in 1998 with public statements criticizing teacher tenure. (“Candidates’ Proposals on Teaching Await Details,”) Feb. 4, 2004.) But he has avoided that issue so far in this campaign, and an AFT spokesman said that dispute had dissipated.

“That was not a major problem for us,” Mr. Wohl said.

Christine Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said that the AFT’s and the NEA’s criticism of the Bush administration’s record on education was misguided.

“It’s unfortunate that the unions have chosen to reject accountability in education,” Ms. Iverson said. Had they supported that principle, she said, “they would have endorsed George Bush.”

Related Tags:

Events

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.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
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.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion What Your Students Will Remember About You
The best teachers care about students unconditionally but, at the same time, ask them to do things they can’t yet do.
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Teaching Profession High Risk for COVID-19 and Forced Back to Class: One Teacher's Story
One theater teacher in Austin has a serious heart condition and cancer, but was denied the ability to work remotely. Here is her story.
9 min read
Austin High School musical theater teacher and instructional coach Annie Dragoo has three underlying health conditions noted by the CDC as being high-risk for coronavirus complications, but was denied a waiver to continue working from home in 2021.
Austin High School musical theater teacher and instructional coach Annie Dragoo has three underlying health conditions noted by the CDC as being high-risk for coronavirus complications, but was denied a waiver to continue working from home in 2021.
Julia Robinson for Education Week
Teaching Profession Photos What Education Looked Like in 2020
A visual recap of K-12 education in 2020 across the United States.
1 min read
On Sept. 24, 2020, distance learners are seen on a laptop held by teacher Kristen Giuliano who assists student Jane Wood, 11, in a seventh-grade social studies class at Dodd Middle School in Cheshire, Conn. Many schools around the state have closed temporarily during the school year because of students or staff testing positive for COVID-19. Within the first week of November 2020, nearly 700 students and more than 300 school staff around Connecticut tested positive, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Teacher Kristen Giuliano assists Jane Wood, 11, during a 7th grade social studies class in September at Dodd Middle School in Cheshire, Conn., while other students join the class remotely from home.
Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP
Teaching Profession Teachers Are Already Getting COVID-19 Vaccines
Some counties in Indiana began vaccinating teachers this week, ahead of schedule.
4 min read
Valerie Kelly, a 5th grade teacher in Vincennes, Ind., receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 28, 2020.
Valerie Kelly, a 5th grade teacher in Vincennes, Ind., receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 28.
Courtesy of Valerie Kelly