At least 158 current classroom teachers across the nation were running this year for a state legislative seat, and 101 have moved onto general elections as of Monday, Education Week reports.
These candidates, most of whom are running for state House positions, come from 32 states, with many running in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona. Thirty-seven candidates won their primaries, while 59 ran unopposed, and 5 are write-in candidates and didn’t have to compete in a primary election. So far, primaries have taken place in every state except Louisiana, which will hold its primary on Nov. 6.
Other educators, including 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes, are running for higher positions. Hayes is competing for a Connecticut seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, while Tony Evers, a Wisconsin superintendent, won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Several teachers are also running for local positions including school boards.
This year is breaking boundaries in elections and political campaigns. The sheer number of educators bidding for a legislative office is enough to call 2018 the “Year of the Teacher,” Education Week notes. And while many of these teachers don’t have previous experience running a political campaign, they’ve got a recent upward trend of teacher activism, which especially took off in states such as Oklahoma and West Virginia, behind them for support.
Teachers are motivated by issues of low pay and insufficient school funding, as well as changing pension plans. The average salary in the U.S. is $59,000, yet teachers, on average, make about $47,000 annually. After the last recession, most states cut school funding, and while the numbers have slowly climbed upward since 2015, they have yet to recover to pre-recession levels. Federal education funding, which has seen some increases over the years, continues to be criticized as insufficient. Underfunded pension and health care plans, as well as a perceived lack of respect, are just a few of the issues inspiring teachers to enter political races, and it appears they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
The surge in educators striving for political positions is only one piece of the puzzle. Surveys also show that the public would support additional teacher walkouts. Some public school employees may feel that they don’t have a voice at the legislative table. But at a time when some education issues are really resonating with voters, these educator candidates stand a shot at getting elected.