Not everyone approves of the Association of Plainfield Teachers (APT) getting involved in local politics.
Seven candidates are vying for three four-year slots on the school board, including incumbents Roger Bonuchi and Dave Obrzut and newcomers Anthony Scala and Greg Nichols.
The union has endorsed three candidates: Newcomers Kevin Kirberg, Tommie Van and William Dargan Jr., giving them $2,000 each.
Bonuchi, Scala and Nichols say it's a conflict of interest because the new board will vote on the teachers' contract.
Van, Kirberg and Dargan disagree.
So far the APT's political action committee has spent $14,361 supporting their three candidates. The group spent:
$1,260 on advertising in Enterprise Newspapers
$4,000 to FedEx for mailing
$1,228 to R&M Specialties LTD for yard signs
$1,873 to R&M for printing
On March 21, the Association of Plainfield Teachers union received $18,240 from the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education, a vehicle that allows teachers in the Illinois Education Association to help get candidates elected to the the General Assembly, statewide offices and local school boards who will make a difference for quality education, according to their website.
Karie Beck, president of the teachers union, said this is the first time in at least 10 years that the union has endorsed and financially supported candidates for the local school board.
An interview committee was made up of teachers of different ages, gender, experience and schools. Board representatives at each of the 30 schools voted on who the union should endorse, Beck said.
Committee members stayed away from positional questions, such as how candidates would vote to eliminate the deficit.
Beck said they asked the candidates to explain how they agree to disagree; how they reach a consensus; their philosophy on education and if they were long-term decision-makers.
"The three that we endorsed is what we think are good characteristics of school board members. I'm not saying the others are not of good character. This is just what we felt was the best," Beck said.
Beck said all seven candidates participated in the union's interview process, with three objecting only after they weren't chosen.
The union is mailing fliers to some of the 58,000 registered voters.
There are about 700 members in the teachers union and the Plainfield support staff union who live within Plainfield School District boundaries and can vote in the upcoming election.
Beck said she doesn't see a conflict of interest, saying unions across the country support candidates.
She especially doesn't see a conflict regarding the teachers contract because the administration makes a recommendation to the school board.
"We are not going forward with a recommendation. The district's administration is going forward with recommendations to the board," Beck said. "The (board members) are the managers of the district. We don't make recommendations to the board."
During teachers' contract negotiations, the school board is not part of negotiations, but sets parameters, Beck said. Administration sits at the table with union representatives and each side bargains before taking what they think is a fair offer back to the board or teachers for ratification.
"Either party can turn it down," Beck said. "My members can turn it down and the board can turn it down."
While the union endorsed Van, Kirberg and Dargan, other candidates also received endorsements.
Bonuchi did not receive campaign contributions from anyone, but was endorsed by the Plainfield Township Republican Organization, the Wheatland Township Republican
Organization and supported by Plainfield Mayor Mike Collins, Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar and Romeoville Mayor John Noak.
Nichols has been endorsed by the Wheatland Township Republican Organization and the Plainfield Township Republican Organization. He received no money or campaign materials from them.
Obrzut said he was endorsed by the Wheatland Township Republican Organization. He also received no money from them.
Scala did not receive any endorsements.