Teachers’ union to use endorsement clout

Assemblyman Bob Beers’ lack of support for tax reform caused the Nevada State Education Association to rescind its endorsement of the Las Vegas Republican—a first for the NSEA.

Assemblyman Bob Beers’ lack of support for tax reform caused the Nevada State Education Association to rescind its endorsement of the Las Vegas Republican—a first for the NSEA.

Photo By Bill Hughes

Nevada’s teachers’ union recently changed the way it will endorse candidates in the future, six months after it revoked its endorsement of Assemblyman Bob Beers.

The old endorsement policy required the 22,000-strong Nevada State Education Association to wait until the close of candidate filing in mid-May. Only then could NSEA officials interview candidates and recommend an endorsement.

Now NSEA eliminates the wait. A committee will compile a list of candidates it recruited or worked with during the months leading up to a declaration of candidacy. Then the union will announce its endorsements when they will have the largest impact.

“It made no sense for us to recruit candidates in important races but then tell them we couldn’t complete an endorsement until June of the campaign year,” said association President Terry Hickman in a news release. “We have members and friends of education who want to run, and we need to be able to support them as soon as possible.”

Once NSEA compiles the list of candidate recommendations for early endorsement, the candidates will still have to complete a questionnaire and interviews with NSEA officials.

“Our leaders and staff have been very busy talking to prospective candidates, some of whom are our members, and we are very pleased to be able to move early on some of these endorsements,” Lange said in the news release announcing his group’s policy change.

This change in policy may be a partial result of an about-face the union had on one of its endorsements. In late June, NSEA revoked its endorsement of Beers, R-Las Vegas, because of his tax stance. It was the first time NSEA ever rescinded a candidate endorsement. It seemed Beers had conflicting opinions, at least as far as the NSEA was concerned.

While Beers agreed with the $337-million increase to fund K-12 education, he disagreed with most of the increases in non-education programs and helped to block passage of the state’s budget. Eventually, lawmakers passed an $833.5-million increase in the state budget.

Beers’ position, Hickman said between special sessions, threatened the fall opening of Nevada schools.

“Needless to say, our members are furious with someone who took our name, took our word and said he’d support public education,” Hickman said in June.

Beers said the change in endorsement procedures likely doesn’t correlate with the group’s revocation of his endorsement earlier this year. The criterion has historically been “who’s best for teachers,” Beers said.

“We increased K-12 funding almost 30 percent and teachers’ pay something like [only] 5 percent over the two-year period, so it’s hard to paint what we did in Carson City as bad for teachers,” Beers said. “I presume that my revocation of endorsement was because I pointed that out at every opportunity.”

Beers said that NSEA would have still endorsed him over his 2002 opponent because of his positions in the 2001 Legislature and also because he was “the lesser of two evils.”

“In that particular session it so happened that what I thought was good for education was what they thought was good for education,” he said.

Still, Beers won’t likely have to worry about an endorsement in the next session, as he prepares for a battle to take a Senate seat in November.