The nation’s largest teachers union announced they will endorse Clinton for president on Saturday. The endorsement was expected but is still a strong boost to her campaign as she heads towards the nominating contests. The NEA becomes the second group of educators to back Mrs. Clinton, following an endorsement from the American Federation of Teachers announced last July. The NEA’s campaign arm had said that it believed Clinton was the candidate best positioned to win in the general election next year. But both Clinton and Sanders had received “A” ratings on the group’s congressional legislative scorecard.
The NEA’s early endorsement of Clinton is out of step with its 2008 process, when it waited to endorse President Barack Obama until after he had secured his party’s nomination. Sanders supporters within the ranks of other unions that have endorsed Clinton have expressed frustration and anger that their respective unions decided to endorse in the primary at all. NEA President Lily Garcia said that the decision not to get involved in the 2008 primary was a factor in the union’s decision to back a candidate in the primary race this time around.
People did talk about that. Were we there to impact the debate? Were we there to influence the candidates?” she asked. “I think what won that day [is that] people said, ‘You know, if you don’t get in when it counts, it doesn’t count when you get in.'”
While Clinton has been careful to avoid antagonizing either the school choice camp or the teachers unions, she has frequently called out Republican attacks against collective bargaining and organizing on the campaign trail. She’s also delighted unions by coming out against the Affordable Care Act’s impending tax on high-cost insurance plans. Unions are campaigning to have the tax repealed because they fear it will shift more out-of-pocket costs to their members. Though Obama ultimately won NEA’s support in the 2008 general election, teachers unions have been lukewarm or cold to him ever since. The administration has pushed policies the unions largely reject, such as teacher evaluations based on student test scores. Last year, delegates at NEA’s national convention passed a resolution calling for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to resign.
Clinton has secured more union endorsements than Sanders. But her campaign experienced a setback this week when the International Association of Fire Fighters abandoned its earlier plan to endorse her. And two other major unions — the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — have indicated that they will take more time to consult their members about an endorsement in the primary. Clinton has long advocated for early childhood programs, an issue important to many teachers. Last year, she launched a campaign encouraging parents to talk, read and sing to their babies. And Clinton broke with the Obama administration to back a key union priority just this week when she said she backs repealing the so-called Cadillac tax on pricey health care plans.