Teacher Union Bosses Help Install a Convicted Felon on Eastern Missouri School Board
On April 8, the citizens of Wentzville, Mo., a small city located less than an hour’s drive away from St. Louis, went to the polls to fill the two of the seven seats on their local school board that were up for election this year. It was a low-turnout race with a crowded field of seven candidates.
In the end, the two candidates who had been endorsed by Missouri National Education Association (MNEA) teacher union bosses, Michael Feinstein and Natalie DeWeese, came in first and second in the field, respectively receiving 21.3% and 21.0% of the vote. They thus captured the at-large school board seats that had been held by Sandy Garber and Sheryl Cox, who came in third and fourth, respectively.
In most respects, this school board election was similar to countless others around the country. As Stanford University political scientist Terry Moe and other experts in education policy-making have observed at various times, the electoral playing field is tilted heavily in favor of candidates who are supported by teacher union chiefs in school-board races where receiving 20-25% of all votes cast is often sufficient to win a seat. This is especially true in states where statutes or judicial precedents (in Missouri, for example) require or allow school districts to recognize a single union as education employees’ monopoly-bargaining agent regarding workplace issues.
What is extraordinary about Wentzville is that, one day after the election, many parents and educators found out for the first time that one of the two candidates who had been elected to the school board with MNEA union bosses’ backing was a felon who had “served time in prison for a forgery and theft conviction in Iowa.” (See the news story linked below for additional information.)
When confronted with charges that he had covered up his criminal record during the campaign, incoming school board member Michael Feinstein insisted it was not necessary for him to disclose “skeletons in my closet” to the public. And teacher union bosses apparently never bothered to ask him about any “skeletons” prior to endorsing him. Last week, an MNEA spokesman indicated the union had pulled its endorsement a few days prior to the election, when it finally learned Feinstein was a criminal, but it seems few rank-and-file voters if any were aware that the union had reversed its stance when they went to the polls.
As Moe explained to the Washington Examiner in 2013, “the key to understanding” many actions of teacher union officials is to recognize that they are “opposed to holding teachers accountable for performance. . . . They don’t want any teacher to lose a job simply because” he or she isn’t “good in the classroom.” And in the roughly three-quarters of states where teacher union officials wield monopoly-bargaining privileges, they are in an excellent position to see their policy preferences implemented.
If a school board candidate like Michael Feinstein tells teacher union officials that he shares their opposition to rewarding good teachers and dismissing those who fail to do their jobs adequately, why should they trouble themselves to do even a minimal background check before they give their endorsement? In Feinstein’s case, at least, it seems clear the MNEA hierarchy didn’t.