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January 30, 2015

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Upset over education bills, teachers pass on endorsing John Oceguera

John Oceguera

John Oceguera

If Assembly Speaker John Oceguera gets into Congress, it will be without a letter of recommendation from the teachers.

Feeling burned by policy changes that eroded long-held rights for teachers, the Nevada State Education Association passed over the Democrat in his 3rd Congressional District race against Republican Rep. Joe Heck, R-Las Vegas. At a board meeting last month, the teachers union recommended no endorsement in the race.

The union is the state affiliate of the National Education Association, which supported the union’s stance. At the state union’s recommendation, the NEA has endorsed the other major Democrats running for Congress in Nevada, including state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, former Rep. Dina Titus and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas.

Lynn Warne, president of the state union, said some of the bills Oceguera pushed through the Legislature “struck at the heart of what are labor rights, teachers’ rights. Currently, where (Oceguera) is with his political career, his aspirations, we couldn’t endorse him to our national organization at this time.”

Warne singled out a bill Oceguera co-sponsored that takes away tenure from teachers who have two consecutive years of inadequate evaluations. The union wanted teachers to have the right to a hearing.

Warne said the group did not interview Heck because he did not fill out a candidate questionnaire.

In a toss-up congressional district, in a year when national Democrats hope to flip control of the House of Representatives, the teachers union sitting on the sideline speaks to how bitter last year’s legislative session was for teachers.

It could also be politically costly. Teachers are often the most personal face of government.

During the 2011 session, some Democrats broke with leadership to vote against some of the education legislation.

“If we piss off the teachers, then we are a defunct party,” Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said in March 2011. “They are our backbone.”

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval made “education reforms” a priority during the session, but the bills that passed had to be shepherded by Democrats, who controlled the Assembly and Senate. In fact, Democrats pushed for changes once championed by conservatives, like making it easier to dismiss new teachers, lengthening their probationary period and including student test scores in teacher evaluations.

Some teachers saw it as the outgrowth of a national wave of education reforms, from the federal “Race to the Top” competition to the movie “Waiting for Superman.”

“We supported the majority of the reform bills,” Warne said. “There were a couple of sticking points where there was no compromise to be had. They were real line-in-the-sand issues for us. We told Assemblyman Oceguera, and he chose not to modify the bills.”

Oceguera’s campaign manager, Adam Weiss, said that Oceguera “is both a strong supporter of teachers and the investment in education. John worked diligently to include all stakeholders and ultimately do the right thing for Nevadans.”

The campaign did receive a contribution from the American Federation of Teachers, a separate labor group that is not affiliated with the Nevada State Education Association and represents no educators in Nevada.

Heck’s political adviser, Ryan Erwin, said he couldn’t speak specifically to why they did not fill out the teachers union survey.

“We don’t fill out a lot of surveys. Congressional campaigns are sent literally hundreds of surveys,” he said.

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  1. Most educators have become so alienated from both Republican and Democratic Parties, that NO career politician is safe any longer. The on-going assault on education via No Child Left Behind (an unfunded Federal mandate), Race to the Top (a gameshow, competitive race to garner needed funding), and the movement to lower and demean the station of hard working, dedicated teachers, has eroded any confidence in a runaway political system that targets teachers, yet does not hold parents accountable as well.

    It is safe to say that teachers are looking to vote in leaders who are NOT beholdened to corporate giants that are dictating policy to the US Department of Education.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. This guy must be okay if the Socialist Teachers Union refuses to back him. The Union is like Pavlov's dogs: ring the election bell and they drool over Dumbocrats no matter their background. Stick with Heck, a known quantity.

  3. "Warne said the group did not interview Heck because he did not fill out a candidate questionnaire."

    I can certainly understand the position not to endorse Mr. Oceguera, but I hope they understand the other option of Mr. Heck is horrible beyond belief regarding teachers here in Clark County.

    I can safely answer that asking Mr. Heck to fill out a questionnaire regarding teachers would be the same as asking Mitt Romney to reveal the past 30 years of tax statements. It ain't gonna happen.

    I know, I know, lesser of two evils thing going on here, but Mr. Heck simply could care less about anything other than himself and scraping together campaign money. As proof, answer this question: What exactly has Mr. Heck done for us since being in office? I can answer that: Nothing, except for being a loyal Tea/Republican Party Of No, No, Hell No, Cannot, Will Not, Will Never Do A Damn Thing.

    "Heck's political adviser, Ryan Erwin, said he couldn't speak specifically to why they did not fill out the teachers union survey. 'We don't fill out a lot of surveys. Congressional campaigns are sent literally hundreds of surveys,' he said."

    This whole statement is malarkey. Based on his past behavior, I can answer that question for Mr. Heck.

    Witness before the election on November 2, 2010. If you went to a nationally recognized website called Project VoteSmart, pretty much all candidates fill out a Political Courage Test that's provided there. Politicians all use that to let people know what they stand for.

    Mr. Heck never filled it out. TO THIS DAY, he hasn't filled it out.

    TO THIS DAY, he never fills out any damn thing at all.

    How the hell did he get elected into office if he didn't stand for anything?

    I guess the point I'm making is that at least Mr. Oceguera lets people know his position about things. Even if people disagree.

    Mr. Heck could give a rat's butt about what people know about him other than calling Social Security "a Ponzi scheme."

    I'm so glad I'm no longer in his district (now in CD1 after re-districting). So, I have rid myself of his total Tea Bagging lunacy.

    People in CD3 need to wake up and look at the whole picture. I'm not saying to vote for Mr. Oceguera, but I hope you know what the alternative is. I know education is a big thing, but I guarantee Mr. Heck will not lift a finger at all for teachers. Nor for anyone except himself. You wave money in his face, he might pay attention to you. But only til your wallet/purse is empty. He has demonstrated this the past year and a half.

  4. I guess I am fortunate because I won't have to vote for either of these guys.

  5. "If we p*ss off the teachers, then we are a defunct party," Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said in March 2011. "They are our backbone."

    That is precisely why it should be illegal for public sector unions to engage in political activity such as giving endorsements. It creates a huge conflict of interest for an elected official.

  6. There are other, better Democratic options for Nevada's teachers and the voters in CD3. Stephen Frye,M.D., understands that teachers collective bargaining rights must be held above those of rapacious corporations like Edison who want to privatize and diminish our country's educational future. Check out Dr. Frye at this past weekends Clark County Democratic Party convention You won't find him on the official Nevada State Democratic Party website, he and others not anointed have been excluded. He is however the best choice for teachers, labor and Nevada to represent CD3.