Home Minnesota Educator Political conference kicks off 2024 election work

Political conference kicks off 2024 election work

Share on

More than 500 Education Minnesota members attended the 2024 Political Conference Feb. 2-3 at the Radisson Blu Mall of America. The conference included a meeting with Gov. Tim Walz and House Speaker Rep. Melissa Hortman, as well as classes about election issues such as pay, pensions and health care and how to run for office.

“Our voices are elevated and heard when we join together as Education Minnesota,” said Vice President Monica Byron at the conference. “Through our democracy, and especially our union, we have the collective power to vote for public education so we can keep our collective bargaining rights, win full funding for our schools, strong retirements and much more. But we need educators like you at the forefront of this statewide movement for generational change — both in our workplaces and our communities.”

The member-led Education Minnesota Political Action Committee has laid out two goals for the 2024 election—to maintain our pro-educator and pro-labor majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives and to take the fight local and elect more pro-educator school board members who will defend our students’ freedom to learn, and our educators’ right to a fair contract.

“With the (House) majority, we can achieve better pay, fair pensions, affordable health care and sustainable working conditions. The Minnesota Senate and governor are not on the ballot this year, so the Minnesota House is the front line,” said PAC Chair and Education Minnesota Osseo President Ternesha Burroughs. “We face unprecedented, coordinated campaigns by extreme bigots and the billionaire class who are trying to take over our school boards and ban books. With more extreme school board members, our negotiations are harder and more taxing than ever. We need to organize, and fight back.”

The 2024 campaign is themed as “We’re Worth More: Pay, Pensions, Health Care” and the conference focused on achieving the support educators need on these important issues.

During the public meeting with Walz and Hortman, members from across the state were able to share their stories about how legislative action—and in-action—affects them and their students.

Education Minnesota 2023-24 Education Support Professional of the Year Darci Brown, a bus driver from St. Francis, shared why ESPs like her deserve more respect and higher wages, something her local unit of drivers almost went on strike for last spring. She asked lawmakers for a minimum starting salary of $25 an hour for all ESPs.

2023 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Michael Houston from St. Paul shared that while the Legislature made historic investments in schools last year, many
educators are not seeing that money trickle down to them and asked that increased, dedicated funding for students and staff be prioritized.

Two members—St. Francis teacher and union leader Ryan Fiereck and aspiring educator Mellisa Larson—spoke about the need for pension reform as both a recruitment and retention tool for educators, as nine out of 10 districts now face an educator shortage.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville teacher Angie Matiash shared her health care story, including her family plan increasing more than $6,000 per year in the last two years. She asked for support from lawmakers to make insurance affordable for all educators and all Minnesotans.

Cannon Falls teacher Cal Vande Hoef shared a story of why educator pay needs to be increased, including a minimum starting salary of $60,000 for teachers. He shared that he is paid about $10,000 less a year than nearby districts, who also get paid too little.

Walz and Hortman responded with commitments to support the asks and continue to work with educators to get real solutions to help educators, students and schools.

Other sessions of the conference included member speakers on why taking action around electing pro-educator candidates at the state and local level is so important.

“Those endorsements were also key to rallying support from friendly organizations, some of which don’t normally work in local races. For them, looking up union endorsements on the MVEA or Education Minnesota website was the way to mobilize their members for our candidates,” said Mounds View Education Association President Stacy Vanderport, who shared her local’s story of endorsing candidates against a well-funded slate who were sharing anti-equity and anti-teacher messaging last fall. Her local won all of the seats to keep a board in place that is supportive of educators and students’ freedom to learn.

South Washington County teacher Ona Wilcox also spoke about her “why” for getting involved with elections.

“At my school—I watch our two mental health professionals try to do their best for nearly 600 students. Because of their high caseloads, they often have to prioritize students in crisis. This leaves hundreds of students in need—students who often slip through the cracks until they too suffer a crisis. That’s a terrible system,” Wilcox said. “Last year, the trifecta was able to pass dedicated funding for more school counselors, chemical dependency counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists. This amounts to at least $40,000 in additional funding for smaller districts each year—and can mean substantially more money for large districts like mine.”

Conference attendees committed to working in their buildings and campuses and worksites to engage with their colleagues about the election work.

Get involved in your local!

Education Minnesota is looking for worksite action leaders in each worksite and local across the state!

Worksite action leaders:

  • Attend an in-person or virtual 60-minute Worksite Action Leader training.
  • Host at least one nonpartisan voter engagement activity in your building. WALs will be reimbursed $1.75/member for the costs of your activity.
  • Share our 2024 Voter Guide and non-voter education materials with members in your building.
  • Worksite Action Leaders who complete a training and submit a plan will receive a $25 gift card after the campaign.
  • Conduct one-on-one conversations with targeted voters in your building.
  • Stay in contact with your local union’s GOTV leader and your assigned political organizer.

If you’re interested, go to www.edmnvotes.org or speak to your local union president!

NEW local funding support for school board, referendum work

Education Minnesota’s Political Action Committee makes funds available to locals for use in campaigns. To be eligible, at least 90% of a local’s members must be contributing to the Education Minnesota PAC. Qualifying locals are eligible for reimbursement for up to two mailings for referendum campaigns and four mailings for school board campaigns to be sent to the targeted voter universe. Locals also qualify for up to $2 per member for other qualifying expenses. Mailers must be printed and mailed by Education Minnesota.

Education Minnesota is now paying two $400 stipends per local to members to fill Campaign Coordinator(s) positions for local elections. Coordinators will be approved for locals that run an approved phone bank program. No phoning, no coordinator(s).

Local presidents can get more information from Education Minnesota staff about this funding program.

Similar Posts