The Atlanta Federation of Teachers (AFT) issued to the Board of Education candidates a list of the AFT endorsements in the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education race. The endorsements made are based on candidate interviews, but not all candidates were requested to interview with the AFT.
The following are the candidates the AFT has endorsed in the race (names as shown on the memo issued by the AFT):
- District 1 seat – Brenda Muhammad (I)
- District 2 seat – Byron Amos (I)
- District 3 seat – None
- District 4 seat – Taryn C. Bowman
- District 5 seat – Mary L. Palmer
- District 6 seat – Dr. Dell Byrd
- At-Large 7 seat – Nisha Simama
- At-Large 8 seat – Ruben [sic] McDaniel
- At Large 9 seat – Dr. Lori James
I contacted Ms. Ramonia Toombs, the AFT Chairperson of the C.O.P.E. Committee who had informed the candidates of the endorsements made and asked what criteria the AFT had used to establish their preferred candidates. Ms. Toombs said,
We selected candidates who had similar views to ours. We selected candidates we could work with.
Additionally, I requested the set of questions that were posed in the interviews to the candidates to further understand the specific issues of interest to the AFT. However, unlike many other special interest groups that publish their questionnaires and candidate answers, the information was not provided by the AFT.
As it is important to all voters to understand why any special interest group is endorsing specific candidates, I have emailed each candidate endorsed by the AFT the following questions:
- Based on your interview with the AFT what views do you hold that you believe are similar to the AFT’s?
- What specific positions or views do you hold that are in contrast to your opponents and that were critical to your being endorsed by the AFT?
Taryn Bowman (D-4) responded to the email with the following,
I had a really lovely meeting with the AFT where they spent 30 minutes asking me questions that dealt with their concerns. I really listened to them and took all the questions to heart. I have a true passion for teachers. I was a teacher. After the interview, I spent some extra time asking them some questions that resulted out of the ones they asked me. It was really a pleasure being able to have open and honest dialogue with the AFT and to listen and learn about their ideas and positions. If I had to guess, personally, I would think that the part of the quotation you sent, “We selected people who we could work with” is why they chose me.
As I receive additional responses, I will provide updates.
It is my understanding that the interview process was completed during the June to early September time frame and that all the candidates running for BOE seats were not interviewed.
It is interesting to note that, per the Campaign Reports filed with the GA Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, the AFT made $1,000 contributions to Byron Amos (I) (D-2) who is running unopposed and to Nisha Simama (AL-7) who is challenging incumbent Courtney English for the seat. The contributions were made in April of this year, well in advance of the final list of all candidates qualifying for positions on the BOE. However, at the time the contributions were made, Mr. English had announced his intentions to run for reelection.
It is also interesting to note that the AFT did not make an endorsement in the D-3 race in which current teacher Matt Westmoreland is running unopposed. In fact, none of the four teachers in the race that have experience with Teach for America were endorsed by the AFT.
I anticipate that additional endorsements from special interest groups will be forthcoming in the next several weeks and I will publish the endorsed slate as received.