By Dina Martin
Question: Ever wonder what goes into CTA's process for recommending candidates?
Answer: A lot.
You might be surprised by how extensive and democratic (with a small d) the process for recommending candidates is.
"Our recommended candidates go through a vigorous vetting process that involves lots of checks and balances," explains Tim Sbranti, chair of the Political Involvement Committee of CTA's State Council of Education.
The process begins with a CTA member committee that conducts in-depth interviews with each candidate. All candidates for statewide offices are given the opportunity to submit a biographical form and answer an in-depth questionnaire that contains up to 20 questions having to do with issues specific to public education. Candidates identified by CTA as "friendly incumbents" do not have to go through the interview process again unless the Board of Directors determines an interview is necessary - and there have been times when that occurs. This year, for example, several lawmakers were re-examined because of their support for Race to the Top legislation. Each state office has a different committee, comprising educators from small, medium, large, rural, suburban and urban chapters. The committee must approve a candidate by a 60 percent vote. And State Council must also approve by a 60 percent vote.
Once the committee makes a decision, a 30-day notice is sent to the local Service Center Council and local representatives, who then have a chance to appeal the recommendation to State Council.
"Committees themselves often have vigorous debates after the candidates have been interviewed," says Sbranti. "There have also been times when a committee has made a recommendation and that name gets pulled and changed on the floor of State Council."
The process for candidates recommended by local chapters is similar. Following CTA's process, candidates for the seat are sent questionnaires and are invited to be interviewed by a committee of local leaders, which may include members from several chapters in that office's district. After answering a questionnaire, viable candidates go through personal interviews with the committee, which then makes a recommendation to their chapter presidents and their executive boards. If the recommendation wins 60 percent of the vote, it progresses to CTA's State Council for final approval.
"CTA's recommendation means a great deal to a candidate," says Sbranti. "It means you are supported by teachers in the largest teachers organization in the state. It's invaluable. Obviously, we make financial contributions to their campaign, but our reputation alone carries considerable weight. Also, CTA members themselves want to be able to make an informed decision about issues that are important to them, so they too rely on this process."
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