A press release this morning announces a key endorsement for Cary Kennedy in the Democratic gubernatorial primary–the Colorado Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-Colorado, fresh off sweeping victories in school board elections last fall:
“Cary is the best person to take Colorado into the future. She understands the challenges that Colorado faces across our great state. As an education advocate, she transformed our education system through policies and increased funding, and as treasurer and saw us through the great recession. Cary has what it takes to keep Colorado moving forward. We know that Cary can win in the primary and in November,” said Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association. “Cary Kennedy has been a champion for Colorado’s kids and educators throughout her entire career. She has taken every opportunity to improve the lives of students, educators and their communities and she has had a great impact on our school communities across the state.”
Sarah Mesmer, the president of AFT-Colorado, was quoted as saying: “Cary Kennedy is a candidate who is clearly dedicated to prioritizing public education in Colorado. She recognizes educators as professionals and understands the importance of high quality education in both the classroom and community. We are confident that under her leadership the many issues impacting our students, including teacher shortages, inadequate compensation, and overall school funding will be solved.”
In communities across Colorado education is a top issue for voters and they look to teachers and education advocates to learn who are the best leaders on public education issues. The voices of CEA and AFT members have been critical across the state and educator-supported candidates won 82% of their races in 2017. In addition, educators have been a decisive factor in critical wins for education advocates and Democrats at the legislature.
No one should discount the value of the support of CEA and AFT after huge wins in recent years in increasingly high-profile school board races around the state. The historic 2015 recall of a conservative majority of the Jefferson County Board of Education signaled a favorable shift in voter response to progressive messaging in these historically overlooked races, and that shift was further underscored in 2017 when progressive candidates ran the table in Jeffco as well as neighboring and formerly arch-conservative Douglas County.
To be sure, those victories weren’t solely the result of the CEA’s and AFT’s organizing. The recent voter backlash against ideologically conservative education policies is much bigger than teacher’s unions, and it’s disingenuous to give them excessive credit for decisions voters are fully capable of making on their own. With that said, the support of these groups should go a long way with Democratic primary voters in particular, helping inform them who has the best interests of public education at heart.
And that makes this an endorsement with a great deal of significance for Cary Kennedy.