Teach­ers chan­nel mo­men­tum from strikes into midterm races

Imperial Valley Press - - NEWS -

PHOENIX (AP) — As they packed up their protest signs and re­turned to the class­room to fin­ish out the school year, thou­sands of teach­ers in North Carolina turned their at­ten­tion to a dif­fer­ent fight: the midterm elec­tions.

Their coun­ter­parts in Ari­zona, Ok­la­homa and West Vir­ginia are al­ready wag­ing a sim­i­lar bat­tle fol­low­ing protests over teacher pay that shut down schools statewide in re­cent months, trans­form­ing ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing into a ma­jor midterm campaign is­sue in many states.

Lead­ers of the Ari­zona move­ment are gath­er­ing sig­na­tures for a bal­lot ini­tia­tive to tax the wealthy and use the ex­tra money to pay for ed­u­ca­tion.

They are vow­ing to oust law­mak­ers and other state of­fi­cials whom they deem anti-ed­u­ca­tion. Teach­ers in Ok­la­homa and Ken­tucky are run­ning for of­fice in larger num­bers, in some cases di­rectly chal­leng­ing in­cum­bents who slashed ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing.

A march through down- town Raleigh on Wed­nes­day drew thou­sands of teach­ers and shut­tered schools for about twothirds of the state’s stu­dents. Hun­dreds of peo­ple out­side the House and Se­nate gal­leries held signs and chanted: “Re­mem­ber, re­mem­ber, we vote in Novem­ber.” City blocks turned red, the color of shirts worn by marchers shout­ing “We care! We vote!”

Teach­ers be­lieve the mo­men­tum from the walk­outs will pro­pel them into the elec­tions and force politi­cians to take ed­u­ca­tion se­ri­ously.

“We turn to the bal­lot, and we get it done that way,” said Noah Karvelis, an or­ga­nizer of the group Ari­zona Ed­u­ca­tors United that mo­bi­lized the teacher walk­out. “We got the power, we just ex­e­cute now.”

In Ok­la­homa, the can­di­date fil­ing pe­riod co­in­cided with the sec­ond week of a teacher walk­out that drew thou­sands of dis­grun­tled ed­u­ca­tors and their sup­port­ers to the Capi­tol. The re­sult was dozens of teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors who filed for state House and Se­nate seats, many mak­ing their first- ever run for of­fice. Pop­u­lar targets were Re­pub­li­can in­cum­bents who op­posed a pack­age of tax in­creases used to pay for teacher raises.

In Ken­tucky, at least 39 cur­rent and for­mer teach­ers are run­ning for seats in the state leg­is­la­ture in its up­com­ing pri­mary. The most high-pro­file race in­volves a high school math teacher who is run­ning against Re­pub­li­can Jonathan Shell, state House ma­jor­ity floor leader.

Shell helped write a bill mak­ing changes to the teach­ers’ trou­bled pen­sion plan that prompted an an­gry re­sponse from teach­ers. Amanda Jef­fers, a Demo­crat and a high school English teacher in Ok­la­homa City, said she had no plans to run for of­fice until the statewide teacher walk­out, where she grew frus­trated with the frosty re­cep­tion she got from leg­is­la­tors.

Me­lanie Beik­man (right) Thou­sands of teach­ers in Ari­zona, gath­ers sig­na­tures May 10 in Phoenix for a bal­lot ini­ti­ate to raise the in­come tax on wealthy earn­ers to fund pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion Ok­la­homa and West Vir­ginia are turn­ing their at­ten­tion to po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties af­ter or­ga­niz­ing in mas­sive statewide teacher move­ments. AP PHOTO/MELISSA DANIELS

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