Shortly before heading over to a town hall meeting with about two dozen NYSUT members, presidential candidate Tim Ryan joked that he’s way ahead in the contest to have sit-downs with groups of educators around the country.
“I do a town hall with a teacher every night,” the Ohio congressman said, referring to his wife, Andrea, a first-grade teacher. “I think I win this competition.”
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said she brought Ryan to the convention as part of the AFT’s 2020 presidential endorsement process. “We want the candidates to hear directly from our members,” Weingarten said. “This is going to be a different endorsement process with the greatest member participation ever.”
After speaking to the full convention hall, Ryan did more listening than talking as he met in a more intimate setting with about two dozen NYSUT members from around the state.
Vestal TA’s Joe Herringshaw explained how districts are struggling with unfunded federal mandates, including an obsession with testing.
Hempstead CSTA’s Nicole Brown told him how charter schools are taking funding away from traditional schools, as well as some of the most promising students. Ryan assured her he has strongly opposed the “wild, wild West” system of charter schools industry in Ohio, with most of the schools “primarily for-profit, making money off kids.”
Ron Thomas of the United Federation of Teachers asked him what he thinks it will take to defeat Donald Trump.
“I think it’s somebody who will take it to him on the issues,” Ryan said. “We need to focus on what we’ll do for people ... and offer solutions for education, health care, climate change — all the important issues.”
The town hall is one in a series that will take place as part of AFT’s 2020 presidential endorsement process, during which all candidates will be invited to engage with AFT members from around the country.
Next week, NYSUT members will be meeting with Weingarten and Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar at an event in Yonkers. On Monday, AFT members will be meeting with candidate Kamala Harris in Detroit. Last month the AFT held a member town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders in Ohio. Weingarten urged members to visit the AFT’s website aftvotes.org to learn more about the new endorsement process.
The National Education Association is also in no rush to endorse — and is seeking feedback from members. This time around NEA has created a website, Strong Public Schools 2020, where members and the general public can compare and contrast candidates and submit questions for the union to pass along via social media, doing town halls and in person. Candidates will be video interviewed and fill out a detailed questionnaire on their views.