WASHINGTON – Voters across the nation—including millions of educators and their families—showed up in record numbers to deliver victories for students, public education, and working families despite a coronavirus that has killed more than 230,000 Americans and contributed to the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. In key battleground states such as Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, NEA members’ activism and investments catalyzed change and led to wins, especially at the top of the ticket with the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
“Over the course of the most consequential elections in our lifetime, candidates had their say and the voters had theirs. In the end, the will of the American people has determined a new course of action to move the country forward,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “Voters ushered in pro-public education and pro-working families’ agendas, with unprecedented NEA activism leading the way. As the dust settles on the 2020 elections, now is the time to pull together to tackle the crises facing students and public education, end the pandemic and the inequities it exposed, reopen school buildings safely and equitably, and start to build back the economy better so that more of us can thrive.”
Since the 2016 election, NEA has invested heavily in building its grassroots mobilization infrastructure at the national, state and local levels, enabling the power of our 3 million members to affect policy and elections on behalf of students. Nowhere was this more evident than in Arizona where #RedForEd activism delivered the state for the Biden-Harris ticket, flipped a U.S. Senate seat, and won approval of Proposition 208 to restore critical funding for K-12 public education, lower class sizes, and address teacher shortages. In addition, NEA’s work to educate parents and other voters about the damaging, anti-public education Trump-DeVos agenda pushed Michigan and Wisconsin into the Biden-Harris win column.
In 2020, NEA ran a sophisticated voter-contact program to support recommended candidates in select races. This included the Biden-Harris ticket in 15 battleground states, 13 targeted U.S. Senate races, and 59 competitive U.S. House races. The program consisted of an integrated combination of direct mail, digital advertising, texting and phone calls. This program targeted NEA members and other voters, with a focus on moderate, independent and disenchanted Republican voters as well as lower-propensity voters who would likely support Biden and other candidates.
- In 2020, one in every 28 voters nationwide came from an NEA household.
- 2,146,884 NEA members and NEA family members voted early, including 930,564 members in battleground states.
- In battleground states, the rate of NEA members voting early exceeded the general public by 20 percent.
- In battleground states, our program helped 93 percent of all NEA members who requested ballots to return them.
Activism in 2020:
With one in 100 Americans being an NEA member, NEA has deep roots in every community to turn out voters and to contribute to margins of victory in battleground states and in key races across the country.
- More than 230,000 NEA members have taken some kind of election-related action, a nearly 50 percent increase over 2016.
- Together, those members took 358,377 unique actions, including participating in phone bank shifts, distributing election-related literature, text messaging, and utilizing relational organizing tools to influence their networks.
- In battleground states alone, NEA activists took part in millions of direct conversations with other voters.
While NEA members campaigned for pro-public education candidates at the federal, state, and local levels across the country, often these candidates included NEA members. So far, at least 76 NEA members have won election, including U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) — with more results yet to be tallied.
In the battleground states, NEA also worked in close partnership with other unions and allied organizations. We came together to mobilize women, Black, Hispanics, AAPI, union members, Native Americans, and other voters to demand a better future for their families and communities.
In addition to fueling a win for President-elect Joe Biden, NEA turnout, investments and activism helped to elect pro-public education U.S. Senators, including Senator-elect Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Senator-elect John Hickenlooper (D-CO), as well as Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN). In Georgia, two U.S. Senate run-off races are scheduled for January — with the balance of the Senate at stake.
Battleground Summer turns into Fall of Action: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin
Battleground Summer was NEA’s biggest effort to educate voters about education-related issues and turn them out to the polls this fall. With educators in the public eye as the nation grappled with school closures and reopening plans, NEA engaged with pro-public education voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, putting all three states in the win column for the Biden-Harris ticket.
In each state, about 100 NEA members each sent pro-public education messages to 200 people, organizing online and by phone and text. Ultimately, the program accounted for 3,331,367 attempts to reach voters and 222,412 conversations, including 27,405 conversations that answered voters’ questions regarding vote-by-mail legislation and policy.
The work of these activists continued into the fall, adding an additional 11,000 voters in Wisconsin and 24,000 in Michigan.
Education-oriented voters considered a number of ballot initiatives this fall, including:
Arizona – Prop. 208 – Arizona voters approved an historic measure to tax the state’s highest income-earners, a measure that will restore more than $1 billion in state funding for students and public education after a decade of cuts to public education. Fueled by the state’s #RedForEd action, which began in 2018 and led to the nation’s largest walkout of educators, the approved ballot measure will fund salary increases for teachers and support staff, and teacher mentoring and retention programs, as well as career and technical education programs.
Colorado – Proposition EE – With this, Colorado voters approved an increase in state taxes on tobacco and nicotine products to fund public education and universal preschool programs. Amendment B – Colorado residents also approved this measure, which will stabilize taxes so that residents do not bear the full burden of taxes.
Florida – Amendment 2 – Voters approved and will gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Education support professionals across the state will benefit from the approved measure as many earn well below $15.
Louisiana – Amendment 5 – Residents voted to effectively end special-negotiated local tax breaks for large oil and gas corporations that have siphoned millions of dollars from public schools and essential services.
Maryland – Question 1 – Voters approved a measure that enables the state legislature more power to allocate funding for public education and other essential services.
“As educators, we teach our students about civics, history, and the value of voting. We know our public schools are more than places of learning – they are the foundation of our democracy. That is why educators are celebrating these critical wins,” said Pringle. “We look forward to working with newly elected officials to strengthen public education by investing in neighborhood schools, dismantling the institutional racism that is holding back many of our students, and building back our economy better so it works for all Americans.”
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About the National Education Association: The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at www.nea.org.