The local Republican Party made the unusual move of endorsing 4 of the 15 school board candidates who were on the ballot this year in Michigan’s Plymouth-Canton school district, according to the Detroit Free Press. What’s even more amazing is that the local teachers union found something wrong with that.
Teachers unions are infamous for trying to hire their own bosses by closely vetting and endorsing school board candidates in just about every district in the nation. Their strategy is to elect a majority of union-friendly board members who will give them their way at the bargaining table, and hire administrators who will let them call the shots at work.
While that certainly sounds like a conflict of interest, union participation in school board elections is clearly protected by the First Amendment.
But Ken Fistler, president of the Plymouth-Canton teachers union, had the gall to suggest that First Amendment rights shouldn’t apply to the local Republicans. He said the party’s endorsement of certain candidates “takes away the ability from anyone who isn’t affiliated with a party to run.” Ha! Local unions not only pick their favorite school board candidates, but provide funding and manpower to assist their campaigns.
The two largest national teachers unions, the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, spent a combined $71 million on candidate and issue campaigns during the 2007-08 election cycle, according to Education Week, and a percentage of that money went to local school board candidates. Teachers unions are very partisan as well, spending a great deal of time and money supporting Democratic candidates for local, state and national offices. There is a current scandal in Sussex County, New Jersey, where a group of union teachers apparently used a middle school classroom to make campaign calls on behalf of local Democratic candidates.
But here’s the real punchline: When reminded by a reporter how local teachers unions endorse and support their own preferred school board candidates, Fistler said his union only recommends candidates for office, it doesn’t endorse them!
Thanks for clearing that up, Ken.