Teacher’s union boss courts GOP, key Hispanic groups in bid for Biden’s education secretary pick

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a collection of more than 40 Hispanic groups who have coalesced around Eskelsen García, are set to deliver their letter to the Biden team on Thursday or Friday.

Eskelsen García, who until this summer was president of the 3 million-member National Education Association, has also had conversations with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to build support for her nomination, according to a person familiar with those discussions. She would be the first Latina education secretary if selected and currently serves as secretary of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

The former union president is one of many potential Cabinet nominees jockeying for positions as President-elect Joe Biden builds out the leadership ranks of his administration. While most of those hopefuls, like Eskelsen García, have been advocating their candidacies behind the scenes without campaigning outright to be chosen, others like Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) have been more publicly vocal about their Cabinet aspirations.

A transition aide familiar with the process said Eskelsen García’s chances of clinching the nomination have improved since fellow union leader Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers personally endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for the Democratic presidential nomination just ahead of Super Tuesday. House Democrats’ tight majority has also made it less likely that someone like Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) would get the nod, since her departure from Congress would open a seat Republicans see as a target for flipping in favor of a GOP candidate.

Chances for Eskelsen García, a former public school teacher, are also boosted by the fact that Jill Biden is a longstanding member of the union she lead.

Jill Biden praised both of the nation’s largest teachers unions for organizing their members to help elect her husband. “Joe and I will never forget what you did for us,” she said in an online session to thank the labor groups last month.

Alexander is leaving Congress in several weeks but has made connections and overtures to fellow GOP colleagues in the Senate on Eskelsen García’s behalf, though he is not expected to publicly endorse a Democratic Education secretary nominee, according to people familiar with the process.

Alexander and Eskelsen García worked closely in 2015 on bipartisan K-12 education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act, S. 1177 (114), for which the National Education Association gave Alexander a major award.

While a large swath of Republican lawmakers initially would likely be outright opposed to confirming the head of a teachers union, supporters of Eskelsen García see potential GOP votes within reach in the Senate, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The two moderate Republicans broke with their party in 2017 to oppose President Donald Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos to be Education secretary, and Murkowski won the endorsement of Eskelsen García’s union in each of her past two elections.

Eskelsen García supporters are also playing up her roots in Utah, where she was teacher of the year in 1989, as a way to woo

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GOP incumbent challenged by Democrat seeking education, healthcare reforms in Pa.’s 106th

A school board member and business owner is running against another business owner and incumbent for the 106th District of the state House of Representatives.

Lindsay Drew is the Democratic challenger who will appear on the ballot in November, running against Republican state Rep. Tom Mehaffie in the 106th, which covers all of Conewago, Derry and Lower Swatara townships, part of Swatara Township, as well as the boroughs of Hummelstown, Middletown and Royalton.

Both candidates have their priorities that they will address, if elected, but whoever takes office in 2021 will also have to face the fallout of 2020 – namely, the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what the candidates had to say:

Lindsay Drew

Drew, 37, serves on the Derry Township School board. She is also the founder and president of iChase Solutions, a marketing and consulting firm that works with small businesses and non-profits.

She has served other roles in her community, too, with organizations that include the township’s zoning hearing board, the Human Society of the Harrisburg Area and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Central PA Board of Trustees.

She said her number one issue is making sure public education is fully and fairly funded.

“I feel that it is important to ensure, regardless of the zip code a child lives in, they have access to equitable education,” she said. “That’s not the case in Pennsylvania, given the funding structure.”

She said since a primary source of raising additional revenue for schools is to increase property taxes, the weight of funding education is on local taxpayers, which needs to be addressed so that education can be funded without compromising the financial stability of homeowners.

One way to do that is through charter school reform, she said. While Drew said she supports school choice, the way charter schools are funded is a disproportionate use of public funds. She said since school districts pay the same amount per student attending their district as they do for those who attend a charter school, she wants to work towards balancing those numbers since cyber schools can educate children at a much lower cost, reducing the burden on public schools and taxpayers, she said.

Any educational changes implemented at the state level, though, need to include the input of parents, teachers and school board members, she added.

Healthcare is another important issue for Drew.

“I don’t view healthcare as a luxury or a privilege. It’s a right,” she said. “At the end of the day, people need to have the security in knowing they have access to healthcare.”

That doesn’t just mean the health care provided by insurance, she said. This is where legislators need to step in to ensure hazard pay and sick leave for frontline workers during the pandemic.

Prescription drugs are also unaffordable, she said, and the state needs to take steps to lower the costs and institute more transparency in the way taxpayer dollars are used in those reimbursements. She said she would also

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The Electoral College Will Not Save the GOP

Our civics lesson for today is the electoral college. Many Republicans cling to the hope that it will save them again. History, unfortunately, tells a different story.
The electoral college was wisely set up by the Founders to ensure that all states (13 at that time), large and small, had a voice in the selection of the new country’s president. This was crucial because the states prior to the adoption of the Constitution were more akin to sovereign countries with their own trade policies and currencies. The electoral system as designed allowed each state to determine the method whereby its “electors” were chosen who then met to select the country’s president.

The system has many advantages over a national popular vote. As noted, it gives sovereign representation in the electoral college to all states no matter its size. It ensures that we will never have a national vote recount, something that could have happened several times in our history, especially in 2000. At least until 2016, the Electoral College has magnified, not erased, national popular vote outcomes. Hence the winners of close elections in 1960, 1968, and 1976 saw their electoral college majorities exceed their popular vote and solidify the result that was broadly accepted.

But the system can also induce electoral denial and a false sense of security, something that affects Republicans today. For the fact is that since George H. W. Bush’s overwhelming victory in 1988 Republicans have won exactly ONE popular vote majority in the last seven national elections. For those counting, that represents thirty two years, a period just a decade short of the length of Republican domination post-Civil War to Woodrow Wilson’s election in 1912. The electoral college elected Bush 43 in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016. However, it also gave strong majorities to Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, two elections where his popular pluralities were converted to strong wins in the Electoral College. So both parties have benefitted from the political stability induced by the electoral college.

The complacency this has instilled in today’s Republicans should be concerning. Trump’s win in 2016 represented the largest spread between popular and electoral college votes, a development that may measure the growing division in the country between so called blue and red states. It’s much harder to develop and implement national programs and themes that appeal to all parts of America.

But it’s hard to find many Republican partisans today who believe it is even possible for Trump to win a popular majority. This is concerning because political parties should be promoting a governing agenda that appeals to all parts of America. It’s also concerning because if this year’s turnout numbers are anywhere near what is being projected, the GOP will not be rescued by the electoral college.

Here are the popular vote totals for the Republican candidates (McCain 2008, Romney 2012 and Trump 2016) in the last three presidential elections: 59 million, 62 million and 63 million, a relatively flat turnout performance. But the

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