42. The District City Council has passed a number of measures to insure that school modernization will be adequately funded. Do you favor continuing this program? [all 8 candidates said yes]Being that these were candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, and the Democratic party has historically been pro-union, the responses were uniformly in line with what, I'm sure, the unions would like to hear with only minor dissension.
44. The current school board consists of four members elected by single member districts, four members appointed by the mayor and one school board President elected at large. Do you favor a system where all members would be elected by single member districts except the President who would be elected at large? [7 of the 8 candidates said yes, Marie Johns being the lone no vote]
46. Do you oppose government issued vouchers for District students to attend private schools? [all 8 candidates said yes]
What I find interesting, however, is the question regarding vouchers. The unions have been vocally anti-voucher due mostly to the fact that, compared to the public school system, private school teachers are rarely unionized (I'm sure that the local AFT would argue their anti-voucher stance is based on more principled ideals, but let's not kid ourselves). The fact that every candidate stated that they opposed vouchers in this questionnaire, in terms of political strategy, is a no-brainer. At most maybe a thousand potential District voters have kids enrolled in the District's voucher program. Even assuming that for these voters the voucher makes or breaks the way they vote compared to the potential contributions -- financially, logistically and votes -- a candidate gets with a union's backing those thousand or so votes aren't worth worrying about.
But what about charter schools? The WTU hasn't been very charter-friendly either for many of the same reasons that they haven't been voucher friendly, mainly because charter schools are almost exclusively non-union shops. Wouldn't it be interesting to see the candidates' views on charter schools? As I mentioned, union support goes a long way in elections, especially for Democrat candidates [in the District are there any other kind? ed], but charter school parents make up a much larger segment of the population. Its not so easy to ignore their numbers.
So, enough of this ramble. The whole reason for this post is that I like the union's questionnaire and figure we should put an education-specific one together for the mayoral candidates. I certainly have a lot of questions I would like to ask and I'm sure you do too. Feel free to either post questions in the comments section or email them to me and I'll try to include any relevant questions I can. Deadline is the end of May, at which point I'll finalize the questionnaire and send them to the respective candidates.