Skip Navigation
We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, provide ads, analyze site traffic, and personalize content. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies.
NEA News

These Educators Ran for Office—and Won!

When a position on the school board for his district opened up, Kenneth Tang become one of more than 90 educators who ran successfully for political office in 2020. "Educators need to be involved in the process of creating effective public policy that impacts students."
educators who ran for office in 2020
Published: 11/16/2020

When Kenneth Tang retired from teaching elementary school in California’s Garvey School District, it was his mission to do all he could to continue helping his students. When a position on the school board for his district became open, his former students urged him to run.

“[My students] were telling me that they felt unheard [at to school board meetings] and about all these issues that they had in school,” said Tang, who was elected to the Alhambra Unified School District School Board this year. “They felt that I could be their voice.”

Kenneth Tang
Kenneth Tang

Tang was one of more than 90 educators, including many educators of color, who ran for office in 2020 and won. He used his experience as a participant in See Educators Run–NEA’s non-partisan political candidate training program designed especially for educators–to propel his campaign to victory.

“In this political environment it is even more critical now for educators to really step into the political arena, especially running for political office, because many times decisions are being made for us outside of the classroom,” said Tang.

Sue Cahill, who teaches in the Marshalltown Community School District in Iowa, knows that well as she begins to transition back to all distance learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. A long time educator and another participant of See Educators Run, Cahill knew that prioritizing education issues on her campaign platform meant not only supporting students while they were in her classroom, but throughout their entire lives.

Sue Cahill
Sue Cahill

“Education involves from early childhood, helping families of newborns and toddlers have working rights to make sure they don’t have to have to jobs to leave their kids with a caregiver, moving into K-12, we have to prepare our students so they are ready for college, career, or service,” said Cahill, who was just elected to House District 71 in Iowa.

As active members of their unions, Tang and Cahill had seen how educators could use their experience and position as community leaders to make positive change in the political realm for their students and fellow educators. State Senator Valarie Lawson, who was reelected to the Rhode Island legislature, says that taking office has expanded her ability to advocate for her entire school community.

“Educators need to be involved in [the] process of creating effective public policy that impacts students. We are in the classroom working with students and our experience needs to be heard and factored in when creating policy,” said Lawson. “Because I am still in the classroom, I can share my experiences as well as my colleagues with other legislators.”

“We can make a difference. What we do in our classrooms impacts all aspects of our society,” said Cahill. Tang echoed by saying, “When it comes to our kids we will fight for them fiercely and fearlessly.”

And, as educators, they already have the skills for that fight. Allison Hepler, a history professor at the University of Maine-Farmington, who recently was re-elected to a second term in the Maine legislature, applies the research skills of an academic to constituent services. She knows how to make herself understood to an audience, and how to write for clarity. The lessons that she teaches her students about American government — "What are our values as citizens? What do we want, what do we need, and what can we afford?" — become real-life exercises in the development of the state budget.

Natha Anderson
Natha Anderson

As each ran for office during the COVID-19 pandemic, learning new ways to reach voters as well as communicate the growing needs of students was challenging. Natha Anderson, who won her race in Nevada this November, says that participating in NEA’s See Educators Run training prior to starting her campaign helped her.

“I’m familiar with the traditional actions, but COVID-19 does not allow for canvassing door-to-door like usual. See Educators Run helped me think about different ways to talk to our voters without having to ask people to go door-to-door,” said Anderson, a high school English teacher and Washoe Education Association president. She ran on a platform that disparities facing her students and communities of color due to the pandemic must be addressed.

Tang says the training helped give him tools such as setting up voter databases, phone banking, and developing graphics. Lawson said that NEA trainings also introduced her to Outreach Circle, which helped get thousands of educators involved in political activism during the 2020 election cycle.

“The association from the local and the state and the national level really gave me such great leadership skills,” said Cahill. “I heard the message: We need to be involved, and if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it? Teachers have so many skills! We are well equipped to get out there and work with kids, work with families, and have those connections.”

Thank you to all the educators who ran for office in 2020, and congratulations to those NEA members who won their races: 

 

Alaska

HD 4: Grier Hopkins

HD 33: Sara Hannan

 

Arizona

LD 2: Andrea Dalessandro

LD 10: Stephanie Stalh Hamilton

LD 17: Jennifer Pawlik

LD 20: Judy Schwiebert

LD 24: Lela Alston

LD 28: Christine Marsh

Scottsdale Unified School Governing Board: Julie Cieniawski

Creighton Elementary District School Board: Heather Ayers

Roosevelt Elementary School Board: Alexis Aguirre

Tempe Union District School Board: Sarah James

Pima County Recorder: Gabriella Cazares-Kelly

 

California

Alhambra Unified School District School Board: Kenneth Tang

Ohlone Community College District Board of Trustees: Greg Bonaccorsi

Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education, Don Bridge

Bakersfield City School District Board of Education, Chris Cruz-Boone

Santa Rosa City Schools Board of Education, Ever Flores

National School District Board of Education, Michelle Gates

New Haven Unified School District Board of Education: Michael Gonzales

West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education, Demetrio Gonzalez-Hoy

John Swett Unified School District Board of Education: Amarjit “AJ” Kaur

Palomar Community College District Board of Trustees, Roberto Rodriguez

Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Education, Carolyn Torres

Chula Vista Elementary School District Board of Education, Lucy Ugarte

Oakland Unified School District Board of Education, VanCedric Williams

 

Colorado

Colorado Commissioner: Andy Kerr

 

Connecticut

U.S. Representative, 5th congressional District: Jahana Hayes

 

Delaware

HD08: Sherae'a Moore

HD10: Sean Matthews

HD11: Jeff Spiegelman

HD32: Andria Bennett

 

Georgia

SD111: El-Mahdi Holly

HD 109: Regine Lewis-Ward

HD 50: Angelika Kausche

 

Iowa

HD67: Eric Gjerde

HD71: Sue Cahill

 

Indiana

HD 27 Sheila Klinker 

HD 53  Tonya Pfaff 

 

Kansas

SD6: Pat Pettey

HD29: Brett Parker

HD34: Valdenia Winn

 

Massachusetts

HD 3rd Bristol: Carol Doherty

HD 2nd Bristol: James Hawkins

 

Maine

HD 8: Christopher Babbidge

HD 53 Allison Hepler

HD 55: Seth Berry 

HD 86: Justin Fecteau

HD 90: Lydia Crafts

HD 97: Janice Dodge

HD 123:Laurie Oshner

HD 138: Robert Alley

HD 148: David McCrea

 

Michigan

HD 20: Matt Koleszar

HD 25: Nate Shannon

HD 28: Lori Stone

 

Minnesota

SD 41: Mary Kunesh-Podein

SD 42: Jason Isaacson

SD 48: Steve Cwodzinski

HD 4B: Paul Marquart

HD 6A: Julie Sandstede

HD 7A: Jennifer Schultz

HD 18A: Dean Urdahl

HD 27B: Jeanne Poppe

HD 46B: Cheryl Youakim

 

Missouri

HD 15 Maggie Nurrenbern

HD 16 Chris Brown 

HD 70 Paula Brown

HD 73 Raychel Proudie

 

Montana

SD 38: Edie McClafferty

SD46: Shannon O'Brien 

HD 77: Sara Novak 

HD 82: Moffie Funk

HD100: Andrea Olsen

HD91: Connie Keogh

HD99: Mark Thane

HD98: Willis Curdy

HD90: Marilyn Marler 

HD84: Mary Ann Dunwell

 

North Carolina

SD24: Linda Cooper Suggs

 

Nebraska

State BoE District 1: Patsy Koch Johns

State BoE District 2: Lisa Fricke

 

New Mexico

SD 16: Antoinette Sedillo López

SD 28: Siah Correa Hemphill

 

New York

SD 25: Jabari Brisport

HD 79: Chantel Jackson

HD 140: William Conrad

 

Nevada

AD 3 Selena Torres

AD 5 Brittney Miller

AD 30 Natha Anderson

SD 7 Roberta Lange

 

Ohio

HD 56: Joe Miller

School Board 11: Mary Binegar

 

Oklahoma

SD 3: Blake Cowboy Stephens

SD 9: Dewayne Pemberton

SD 19: Roland Pederson

SD 35: Jo Anna Dossett

HD 15: Randy Randleman

HD 34 Trish Ranson

HD 77: John Waldron

HD 79 Melissa Provenzano

 

Oregon

SD 25: Chris Gorsek

HD 20: Paul Evans

HD 26: Courtney Neron

HD 49: Zach Hudson

 

Pennsylvania

HD2: Bob Merski

HD117: Karen Boback

HD121: Eddie Day Pashinski

HD154: Napoleon Nelson

 

Rhode Island

SD14: Valarie Lawson

SD 27: Hanna Gallo

HD 68: June Speakman

HD 69: Susan Donovan

 

Texas

State Board of Education, District 5: Rebecca Bell-Metereau

 

Utah

School Board District 15: Kristan Norton

SD 8: Kathleen Riebe

SD 37: Carol Spackman Moss

 

Washington

LD 8 - House position 2: Matt Boehnke

LD 11 - House position 2: Steve Bergquist

LD 21 - House position 2:  Lillian Ortiz-Self

LD 30 - House position 2: Jesse Johnson

LD 38 - House position 2:  Mike Sells

LD 42 - House position 2:   Sharon Shewmake

LD 49: - House position 2: Monica Stonier

 

West Virginia

SD 4: Amy Nichole Grady

HD 5 Dave Pethtel

HD 21: Mark Dean 

HD 26: Ed Evans

 

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.