WASHINGTON—Following the wave of teacher strikes this year in states such as West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona, an unprecedented number of educators are running for office.
Nearly 300 members of the American Federation of Teachers are candidates, more than twice as many as in 2012 and 2016. “We’re receiving applications by the hour. It’s amazing,” National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia told Politico. “We’re really seeing the sun, moon and stars line up with the women’s march, the educator spring.” Most of them are running as Democrats, including 27 of 33 in Oklahoma, but not all: In May in Kentucky, high-school math teacher Travis Brenda upset state House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell in the Republican primary. “We’re really pushing ‘vote your job,’” said Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest. “Public education is your paycheck and your passion, and you need to vote as though it is.” The national Democratic party, however, is reluctant to put money into states that are generally Republican, however. Teachers are “taking their own lead in all of this,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.