Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of our series on the Government Relations Committee process used to interview, evaluate and recommend candidates to NEA-NH members.
The Process of Evaluation
NEA-NH President Scott McGilvray, Executive Director Rick Trombly, Communications Director George Strout, worked with GR Chair Bonnie Doherty and Jake Sweeney from NEA to develop a list of 8 questions that would be asked of each candidate. These questions were not provided to the candidate beforehand, but each candidate was informed of the number of questions. Here are the questions each candidate was asked:
1. Teachers’ voices have been replaced by special-interest donors and for-profit corporations in the conversation about what works best in classrooms. How will your administration involve educators in the development and integration of education policy?
2. NEA-New Hampshire believes the chances children have for success should not depend on winning a charter lottery, affording private school, or living in the right zip code. Secretary Clinton, you have called for more support of public schools, including universal preschool, higher teacher salaries, and updated school facilities, and say such improvements are possible. How would you make this happen?
3. Each year, the Federal Government fails in its promise to fully fund Special Education. Where does this funding fit into your administration’s budget priorities?
4. New Hampshire is the first state in the nation to pilot a program with the Federal Government that reduces the amount of standardized testing in favor of more locally produced and managed assessments that will be integrated into a student’s day-to-day work. What role do you believe standardized testing should play in the education of our youth?
5. There is general agreement that higher standards produces higher results. Some running for President once supported Common Core and have now backed away from that position. What is your position on Common Core and what, if anything, would you propose to change or improve these standards?
6. Even with good grades and transcripts, many deserving students cannot afford a college education. Besides lower interest rates and college loan restructuring, what would your administration propose to address the affordability of higher education?
7. Do you support workers’ rights, especially public education employees, to collectively bargain as a path to stabilize the middle class in this country? What will you do to counteract current attacks on workers’ rights to bargain?
8. How will you win this election?
At the beginning of each interview, candidates were provided an opportunity to make an opening statement. Each candidate was then asked the same eight questions by Bonnie Doherty, after which there was an opportunity for follow-up questions from other Committee members. Candidates finished the interview with a closing statement. Each interview lasts approximately an hour. Following the interview, each candidate was provided a copy of the questions asked in writing in case they wanted to elaborate on any issue or correct anything they may have said.
At the completion of the round of interviews, the Committee meets to discuss the results, apply their evaluation criteria, and determine if they can recommend a candidate. There is much discussion and open debate and a final vote is taken only when the Committee agrees that they have exhausted their discussions.
In evaluating each candidate, the Committee reviews their responses and their voting record. The committee is looking for past support of public education funding and policies, support of collective bargaining rights, and protection of retirement security for educators.
The Committee reviews the candidate’s proposed new policies and solutions, not just in terms of their agreement with our positions, but also their likelihood of successful passage and implementation. The right words without a feasible implementation plan is a hollow promise in the eyes of the committee.
Lastly, the Committee accesses each candidate’s electability. Winning a presidential campaign takes a great deal of resources, organization and support, and the Committee evaluates each candidate’s campaign for strength and longevity.
In many cases, the president and governor serve as a “goalkeeper” for educators and students, working to balance, and veto if necessary, the products of less-friendly legislatures and Congress. Electability becomes critical in cases such as these, since having no one in the executive office to protect the interests of public education and educators would be devastating.
The interview with Secretary Clinton took place on June 15 at the Puritan Back Room in Manchester at 4:30 pm, prior to the Manchester Democrats Flag Day Dinner. The interview with Governor O’Malley took place on July 8 at 3:00 pm. Governor Chafee came in on June 30 at 3:00 pm, and Senator Sanders was interviewed on August 1 at 11:00 am. All interviews, other than Secretary Clinton’s, took place at the NEA-NH offices in Concord.
The Committee’s decision is not made public until presented to the Executive Board. The Executive Board acknowledges receipt of the Committee’s decision then decides how to act on it. They can accept the decision and make it public immediately, opt to delay publication of the recommendation, reject the decision, or choose to do nothing.