Friday, February 05, 2010

MCEA Fights Back Against the Post

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) has sent out a mass email to its members refuting the Washington Post editorial branding it a "toxic influence" on Montgomery County politics.

Whatever the arguments made by the Post's notorious union-bashing editorial board against MCEA, we are struck by their venomous tone. This editorial is reminiscent of their vicious tirade about the recent Council President election, which they tried to associate - inaccurately - with the unions, not to mention the work of the Boy King. Once upon a time, the Post was a dignified institution that printed editorials characterized by intelligence and rhetorical restraint. Have they now fallen to the level of intemperate and irresponsible bloggers?

We reprint MCEA's email to its members below.

From: Doug Prouty
Sent: Friday, February 05, 2010 2:48 PM
Subject: Response to the Washington Post

Dear MCEA Members,

Today the editorial board of the Washington Post decided to run a broadside attack on the rights of Montgomery County teachers to be involved in politics (

The Post’s editors have a long history of union bashing (see the blog posting: “Is the Washington Post Credible on Labor Issues?” at But we wanted to provide you with more information to understand – and explain to others – just why the Post’s editorial board is so wrong.

1. Their fundamental allegation is their belief that MCEA “…is hiring its own bosses”. The Post ignores the fact that it is the voters who elect the County Council and Board of Education, not us. If Montgomery County voters consistently elect politicians who support public education, it is because Montgomery County is a community that supports public education.

2. The Post’s position contradicts itself. On the one hand, they say that teachers “deserve good salaries and benefits for doing a tough and important job”. But then they attack a “twisted system (that) has fueled skyrocketing payroll costs”. If they submitted that kind of contradictory argument in a debating club, they’d be laughed out of the room.

3. MCEA has one of the most transparent and participatory candidate recommendation processes of any organization in the county or the state. Unlike at the Post, candidates are not endorsed by a small group that meets behind closed doors. Our recommendations are made by the Representative Assembly - a group of hundreds of educators who are elected at each school and office across the county. We are the only organization we know of that publishes a rubric of the criteria we use in making recommendations ( All candidates are interviewed by committees of volunteer rank-and-file members, and fill out questionnaires about their views on critical issues of education policy.

4. MCEA’s coordinated campaign work is not unusual, and certainly not illegal. Despite the Post’s allegations, nobody pays to be on the Apple Ballot. But once the Rep Assembly makes its recommendations, we do all we can to help elect those candidates. In 2006, most of our recommended candidates voluntarily made contributions so we could do additional direct mail and advertising on their behalf. This is no different from county political parties that collect contributions from their candidates to fund the parties’ mailings to voters; or the common ‘district slates’ where state delegates and senators make contributions to a ‘team PAC’ in order to send out joint direct mail.

5. The Post has a misguided view of political corruption. Most candidates collect cash contributions from corporations and other special interests groups. That system looks a lot more like “buying votes” than what MCEA does. If they think politicians are selling their votes, how about looking at government contractors who make campaign contributions and then win favorable government contracts or zoning changes? MCEA’s PAC makes very few cash contributions to candidates.

We challenge the Post to identify a single MCEA recommended candidate who did not earn our support by their advocacy for public education. It simply hasn’t happened.

The Post’s editorial challenges the basic right of teachers to engage in the political process. It is also a long-winded innuendo of improper conduct with absolutely no evidence to back it up.

We make no apologies for working to elect candidates who will be strong advocates for public education.
That is the right thing to do not only for our members, but for our students as well. We hope even more members will join in our efforts to do so.

In Solidarity,

Doug Prouty
MCEA President