(Reprinted from eChalk; A Biweekly Update from Mary Lindquist, WEA President)
I watched every episode of West Wing. And Robert Redford’s The Candidate is one of my favorite movies. I even enjoyed The Election, an off-beat story about high-school ASB elections. In short, I am a political junkie.
I know not everyone shares this affliction, but I am dismayed to read that the average American spends seven minutes or less per week thinking about politics. And I while I love Washington Week on PBS, I know many of you are too busy with the demands of your jobs and family to spend as much time as I do.
Often I hear from members wondering why WEA is so involved in politics and how we make our decisions on which candidates to support.
The why is simple. Seventy-five percent of all our K-12 schools funding comes from the state. College funding and support for early learning is very dependent upon state funds. How teachers are evaluated, what kind of health care plans are offered, how many days students are in school and what credits they need to graduate from high school and how high college tuition can go are all influenced by the Legislature and other lawmakers.
The how is pretty straight forward. For statewide offices, a subcommittee of the WEA-PAC Management Board interviews the candidates and reviews the candidates’ answers to the questions. The entire PAC membership then acts on the sub-committee’s recommendation.
For legislative candidates, members through their UniServ offices conduct the candidates’ interviews. Teams are trained, use a common set of written questions and conduct face-to-face interviews. When there are vacant seats, these teams are asked to interview all of the viable candidates. Sometimes, when legislators have a pro-education record, we may choose to only interview that incumbent.
The interview team then makes a recommendation to the statewide WEA-PAC Management Board, composed of one member from each council, as well as one additional representative each from ESP, WEA-Retired, WEA Staff and Higher Education. When the PAC board acts, the recommendation becomes official.
Members of the local interview teams are chosen at the council level, often by the council president and/or PAC Board manager. Members interested in being involved — interviews will be occurring in the next month or two — should let their local presidents know.
We want our process to be open, fair and engaging for members and candidates. And we want to identify strong, pro-education, pro-educator and pro-student candidates.