The union representing about 2,800 Omaha Public Schools staff members endorsed Democrat hopeful Heath Mello in the Omaha mayor’s race over Mayor Jean Stothert, a Republican, the other day.
It’s a head-scratcher, since for many years, Stothert was a member and past president of the school board of the Millard Public School, the state’s second-largest district with a budget of $241 million. She is highly popular with educators citywide, who believe she has been in the trenches and she “gets it.” Mello, a former aide to Democratic Sen. Ben “Cornhusker Kickback” Nelson and a former state senator, has never served on a school board and works as a “community affairs and development specialist” for Metro Tech.
Though the Omaha Education Association claims to be an “association” more than a “union,” it does engage in collective bargaining and its members pay dues. This is a move that, sadly, nails the lid on the coffin of professionalism for teachers in Omaha. It is the first time the union has gotten involved in a mayor’s race, even though the mayor has little or nothing to do with OPS operations. The reason appears to be totally political and not at all educational.
But it’s a move that spotlights the overpoliticization of teachers’ unions, getting involved in non-teaching political races, and putting the teachers’ money where the union’s mouth is. The state teachers’ union is one of Mello’s biggest, if not THE biggest, contributors. Here’s his campaign contributors list from just the past year:
You might want to check out all the “educational” resolutions that the national teachers’ union, the National Education Association, approved at a recent convention, to see the extensive overpoliticization which is smearing the teaching profession so blatantly:
Sources speculate that the chief reason for the Omaha teachers’ union’s endorsement of Mello is that he has vehemently opposed educational innovations in school choice for disadvantaged children who are stuck in failing public schools, such as the 20 or so schools within OPS with alarmingly low test scores for reading and math.
Stothert has pointed out that after the OPS board deadlocked for more than 120 ballots at one meeting alone just to elect a board president, suddenly Mello’s former legislative aide, Lacey Merica, won the post:
Ms. Merica, new OPS board president
Sources have acknowledged that Mello was involved in the back-room dealmaking. Stay tuned for more on the story-behind-the-story, because there’s more.