Utah Education Association Spending Big to Back Herbert

UEA LogoThe Utah Education Association’s political arm backed partially by the National Education Association, is dropping big bucks on advertising to support Gov. Gary Herbert in his primary race against Jonathan Johnson.

UtahPolicy.com has learned that Utah’s largest teacher’s group is spending approximately $200,000 on television and digital ads urging Republicans to support Herbert’s over Johnson. The ads are running on local TV stations and Facebook. 
“Gov. Gary Herbert is a leader in education. Gov. Herbert has invested more in education than any other Utah governor. $1.8 billion dollars,” says the narrator in the commercial. “That means more support for Utah teachers, increased student achievement, and higher graduation rates. He’s vigorously defended local control so Utah teachers, parents, and communities, not the federal government, can set our own standards and curriculum. Vote for four more years of strong education leadership in Utah. Re-elect Gov. Gary Herbert.”

The advertisement comes after the Utah Education Association’s Political Action Committee (UEA-PAC) voted to support Herbert over Johnson.
Where is that staggering amount of money coming from? The UEA PAC received a $300,000 donation from the National Education Association on June 8. Local donations to UEA PAC will be detailed in their pre-primary election disclosures due on June 21.
It’s not surprising that the UEA’s PAC and the national teacher’s union are pouring big bucks into the race. Johnson has advocated for more school choice and his running mate, Robyn Bagley, is a leader in the school choice movement in Utah. Johnson has pulled in more than $850,000 in campaign donations from Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne, who was a major financial backer of the voucher movement in Utah. When Utah voters defeated vouchers at the ballot box in 2007, Byrne said the vote was a “statewide IQ test” that Utahns failed.
It’s no coincidence that the UEA ad mentions local control. Johnson had been taking pot shots at Herbert over his support for Common Core and SAGE testing, claiming it was an unwelcome intrusion into Utah education by the federal government. It’s actually a set of educational standards first proposed in part by the National Governor’s Association, the group which Herbert now chairs. Herbert recently abandoned his support for the standards and called for an end to SAGE standardized testing.
The most recent UtahPolicy.com poll in the gubernatorial primary contest found Herbert with a 38-point lead over Johnson among likely GOP primary voters.