I have nothing against Hillary Clinton.
Heck! I might even vote for her in the coming Presidential race. Maybe…
But the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) endorsement of the former First Lady is strange in many ways.
First, it’s awfully early. The initial Democratic primaries aren’t scheduled for half a year yet – February of 2016 to be exact. And the general election isn’t until Nov. 8, 2016 – more than a year away.
Second, the manner in which this endorsement was reached is somewhat mysterious.
This much seems certain:
1) The AFT executive board invited all of the candidates to meet with them and submit to an interview. No Republican candidates responded.
2) Democrats including Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Clinton were interviewed in private.
3) The executive committee voted to endorse Clinton.
4) NOW the interviews are scheduled to be released to the public.
This is a perplexing timetable. Why would the AFT endorse BEFORE releasing the interviews? Ostensibly, the executive council used these interviews to help make its decision. Shouldn’t that same information have been available to rank and file members of the union before an endorsement was made?
Which brings up another question: were AFT members asked AT ALL about who to endorse before the executive council made the final decision?
According to the AFT press release, they were:
The AFT has conducted a long, deliberative process to assess which candidate would best champion the issues of importance to our members, their families and communities. Members have been engaged online, through the “You Decide” website, through several telephone town halls, and through multiple surveys—reaching more than 1 million members.
Additionally, over the past few weeks, the AFT has conducted a scientific poll of our membership on the candidates and key issues. The top issues members raised were jobs and the economy and public education. Seventy-nine percent of our members who vote in Democratic primaries said we should endorse a candidate. And by more than a 3-to-1 margin, these members said the AFT should endorse Clinton.
So the AFT claims union members said to endorse Clinton on-line, on telephone town halls, surveys and a scientific poll of membership.
But did they really?
Clinton may be the Democratic frontrunner, but she isn’t a favorite for a lot of teachers. Chiefly this is because her education positions are not that great. Sure, she’s better than every Republican running so far. But she has stiff competition in the Democratic field – especially from Sanders.
If Clinton had come out against Common Core, standardized testing and using student test scores to evaluate teachers effectiveness, I wouldn’t question the AFT’s endorsement at all. But she has been rather supportive of these issues – just like our current President, Barack Obama.
Teachers are fed up with Obama’s education policies. Why would they overwhelmingly endorse someone for President who seems bound and determined to continue them?
So I hope I’ll be excused if I ask for a bit more proof than a press release.
Where exactly are the polls, surveys, etc. that show the Clinton support AFT leadership claims?
For instance, which polls produced which results? The press release says AFT members prefer Clinton 3-1. But even if Clinton came out on top consistently, surely the results weren’t identical on every poll. Maybe she got 75% on one and 65% on another.
The AFT hasn’t released everything, but the organization’s website gives us a memo about ONE of these phone surveys. This national survey of membership planning to vote in Democratic primaries found 67% picked Clinton. However, only 1,150 members participated! That’s a far cry from the more than 1 million cited in the press release.
Moreover, there is no mention of what questions were asked. For instance, there is a world of difference between “Who would make the best President?” and “Who is most electable?” Is it possible there was selection bias present in the questions used to make this determination?
But that’s only one survey. Where is the rest of the data? Where is the raw information from this survey? Where is the data from all these other outreach attempts and on-line activities? How many took phone surveys? How many took on-line surveys? And what were the results in each case?
If union members really did endorse Clinton, that’s fine. But many of us would like to see the proof.
I’m not a member of the AFT, but I’m on the mailing list. I never received any survey.
A lot of my friends are AFT members, but none of them recall any survey.
As a member of numerous education and teaching groups, I know of no one else who admits to being polled either. In fact, I haven’t been able to find ANYONE who was polled on this issue!
I admit that’s not exactly scientific. But that’s why I want to see the data! Blind me with science, AFT!
I believe in teachers. I believe in Unions. I believe in Democracy.
Please release the raw data, AFT, so I can believe in this endorsement, too.
NOTE: This article also was published on the Badass Teachers Association blog.