When I ran for a school board seat, I was proud to receive the endorsement of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers. The endorsement was unanimous and despite the fact that I maintained some positions that were at odds with typical teacher beliefs.

I never asked anyone, but my educated guess is that the reason I received the endorsement is because I had a history of supporting teachers and advocating a society that places more value on our educators than it does on our professional athletes. They knew that I understood that the smaller battles facing the N-MUSD paled in comparison to the monumental issue of teacher job satisfaction, which is declining and which is resulting in a growing shortage of teachers: Earlier this year, the California Teachers Assoc. reported that approximately “20 percent of all new hires leave the classroom within three years. In urban districts, the numbers are worse—close to 50 percent of newcomers flee the profession during their first five years of teaching.”

All the years I was doing this, I never received any money from the union. After my endorsement, I gladly accepted a check for $2,000. No one asked me for a vote on a district matter in return. No one asked me to change a position, or even just to stop talking about a position. Nothing.

At a 2014 candidate forum, school board club member Vicki Snell proudly stated that unlike me, she was not taking any money from the union. She did it again in the comments section of a recent DP story, which you can read here: http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-nmusd-campaign-funding-20161104-story.html

There is another comment there – mine. I wrote, “The real reason that Snell did not take any money from the teacher union is because they didn’t offer her any. And why didn’t they offer her any money? Because she is cut from the same cloth as her colleagues – people who claim they appreciate our teachers but then pinch pennies during negotiations and award fat contracts to administrative people. What she fails to tell readers is that she has colleagues on the school board club who have gladly taken union money. I had the honor of receiving unanimous union endorsement 2 years ago despite the fact that I disagreed with some key union positions. If Snell can’t take union money then say no to positions with which she disagrees then she does not have the strength of character to be in public office.”

Snell and her colleagues can save the lofty talk for people who haven’t been watching them as long as I have; people who have not seen the hypocrisy of school board club members who hand out awards to teachers and talk about how great they are, then try to stiff them in negotiations while claiming that negotiations are the responsibility of the staff. Then they fail to add that the contract has to be approved by the school board club.

And doing all that while arbitrarily renewing administrative contracts long before they expire, by allowing the administration to expand with more bureaucrats, and by paying them hefty salaries while not demanding any accountability whatsoever.

Ah, but teachers are accountable, aren’t they? So isn’t only fair that the bureaucrats in the administration be held accountable, too? Of course.

What Snell and the rest of the school board club members and the administration have failed to realize for so many years is that while teachers want more money, respect is something they treasure more. My union endorsement despite our differences in a few areas and with no strings attached is proof of this.

But it’s difficult to make this point with people who don’t understand the concept. Respect for teachers means that when too many of them tell you to dump Swun math immediately, as they have for years, you don’t do the stall, stifle, and stymie shuffle, you dump it.

Respect means that you don’t cry poor during contract negotiations while you allow the superintendent to keep hiring and expanding and paying big money to subordinates.

Respect means that you start implementing the concept of servant leadership and figure out ways to help make teachers happier and more effective instead of overloading them with the nonsense that is leading to massive turnover in the profession.

Show me the money.

I lost to Snell 2-1. Roughly 20,000 votes to roughly 10,000 votes. My entire campaign cost about $4,000. I received $2,000 from the union, loaned myself about $1,500 and got unsolicited donations to make up the rest.

2-1 sounds like a big defeat, and on the surface, there is no denying that. But I did some research and found that in nearly every single precinct in Newport-Mesa, I lost by about the same margin. From that, I realized that my messaging, one of increased transparency, increased accountability, and increased fiscal responsibility, had a broad appeal. And I was proud of the fact that I did as well as I did for about 40 cents a vote.

Win or lose tomorrow, Snell should stop painting the N-MFT as one of those corrupt, manipulative, Fox News unions that has an unhealthy influence over the candidates it supports and understand it for what it is: A small group of people working hard to earn the respect they should have been given many years ago.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD