This week, Democrats in Rhode Island chose their candidate for governor to replace outgoing Governor Lincoln Chafee, and they handed a major rebuke to the teachers unions in their choice. Gina Raimondo, the current state treasurer, won the nomination despite pushing a major pension reform during her term, which won her the enmity of public employee unions.
But while the mainline union choice—Providence Mayor Angel Taveras—failed to surpass the relatively moderate Raimondo, the teachers unions’ choice came dead last among major candidates. Clay Pell had the backing of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Healthcare Professionals (Randi Weingarten’s minions in the state) and the National Education Association Rhode Island.
Teachers unions were hoping to leverage a possible Taveras endorsement for concessions in ongoing contract negotiations; to his credit, the mayor appears to have put his constituents before his political ambitions.
Despite the teacher union support, over $3 million of his own money, and a famous name in the state (his grandfather was a U.S. Senator for 36 years), Pell got 27 percent of the vote—good enough to come in third of three major candidates. The political might of the teachers unions and Randi’s army went nowhere.
Indeed, this collapse may help illustrate why the Boston Teachers Union and Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers concocted the support-obscuring scheme that they used to help Marty Walsh become Boston Mayor. Even generally pro-union Democratic constituencies are beginning to realize that teacher unions are standing in the way of education reform, making Randi Weingarten’s support a poisoned chalice.
Even New York City, where Bill de Blasio swept to power on left-wing sentiment, has begun to break with the union. In a major U-turn (partially forced by a new state law), the city Education Department will allow more charter schools to share space in public school buildings. Worse for Randi, at least two will be run by her longtime nemesis, former NYC Councilor Eva Moskowitz.
With a weak showing Rhode Island and a U-turn in NYC, Randi hasn’t had a good week—and that means America’s educational system has most probably had a very good one.