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Education News

Lauren Camera
Senior writer
U.S. News & World Report
She joined the News team as an education reporter in 2015. She’s covered education policy and politics for more than a decade.



American Federation of Teachers Closes In on Presidential Endorsement

THE AMERICAN FEDERATION of Teachers is closing in on a final 2020 presidential endorsement, telling its 1.8 million union members that they should support or endorse one of three candidates: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

"While several candidates in this race share our values, three in particular – Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren have significant support within our membership," AFT president Randi Weingarten told union members Thursday night during a phone call to recap the latest meeting of AFT's executive council. "There is a real connection with these three candidates because of their record of working with us over the years on public education, higher education, healthcare, labor and civil rights." The winnowing of the deep Democratic primary field excludes three other top-tier candidates: former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

The push comes strategically ahead of the selection of more than 60% of the delegates by the end of March, Weingarten said, underscoring that the union is closing in on a national endorsement and that it wants its members to be part of shaping that final decision. "It was clear that the time to take this action was now, before all the delegates are chosen and before all of the primaries are over, so that AFT members and leaders can help shape the race and the narrative, ensure our voices are heard, and ensure one of these three candidates emerges as the nominee," Weingarten told AFT's members. A resolution adopted by the executive council outlines how Biden, Sanders and Warren have received the highest levels of support from AFT members, including endorsements from the union's affiliates at the state and local levels, as well as AFT members running as delegates in support of their candidacies.

Each of the three candidates have promised to supercharge funding for K-12 education if elected, especially for poor students and students with disabilities. They've also promised to significantly increase teacher salaries and resources for support staff, like nurses and social workers, and eliminate or freeze federal funding for charter schools. The AFT endorsement process requires presidential candidates to engage directly its union members in a live event. Weingarten has said that, given the extensive field of 2020 Democratic hopefuls, she doesn't expect to make an endorsement until the spring, which seems to hold with this latest announcement. Teachers unions are famous for their ability to mobilize boots on the ground within the Democratic Party, and the recent spate of educators protesting, rallying and striking in cities and states across the country has amplified their voices.

Perhaps more than ever, the AFT and the 3.5-million member National Education Association are primed to flex their political muscle and open their purses this election cycle in order to oust President Donald Trump, whose signature education policy agenda – school choice – and proposals to slash K-12 spending are anathema to their goals. Combined, the NEA and the AFT made $64 million in contributions to candidates, political parties, 527 committees and outside spending groups during the 2016 election cycle, according to Open Secrets, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics.