Electioneering activities are already underway across the country. The Florida Education Association is poised to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and mobilize their tens of thousands of members in order to defeat an amendment to that state’s constitution that would alter class size requirements. New Jersey’s Chris Christie has had to deal with a constant barrage of threats from his state’s teachers unions. When he suggested a pay freeze and for teachers to pay a portion of their health care benefits, he was attacked as having launched a massive assault on public schooling. Oregon’s teachers union has marked $200,000 to spend on independent expenditures that will go toward defending its allies at the state house and donated $50,000 to Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber.
In Colorado we can see echoes of Washington’s mayoral primary. Colorado legislators pushed through massive education reforms earlier this year, bucking the will of the union in order to enact teacher-effectiveness evaluations and weaken tenure. How have the teachers unions responded? By spending heavily on political activities – they have given almost $1 million so far this year, including $10,600 to Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper and $110,000 to 48 more Democratic legislative candidates.
Despite the fact that public approval of teachers unions is on the decline and voters are generally supportive of education reform, legislators are faced with a tough choice: Do what’s right for kids and their education, or risk incurring the wrath of the teachers unions and endanger their electoral prospects.