The Democratic candidates for president have decided to ditch plans to participate in an education forum planned for later this month in Iowa, and the forum’s organizer says it is because the candidates fear backlash from teachers unions.
The forum was set to be hosted by the Seventy Four, a news organization launched earlier this year by Campbell Brown, an education reform advocate, to direct more attention towards critical education issues. It was going to be co-hosted by the Des Moines Register and the American Federation for Children.
Brown says she was privately told by campaigns that the reason they would not be speaking at the forum is because they were being pressured by teachers unions not to attend.
"The teachers unions have gotten to these candidates," said Brown. "The campaigns privately conceded to me they were under pressure from the unions not to attend this event."
Brown slammed the entire field for giving into union pressure.
"All we asked is that these candidates explain their vision for public education in this country—and how we address the inequality that leaves so many poor children behind," said Brown. "When it comes to education, do they plan to represent the interests of big money teachers unions or do what is best for kids?"
"Every candidate has to make a choice," she said.
A nearly identical event was hosted by the Seventy Four for Republicans this summer in New Hampshire. Six candidates attended the education summit and offered different proposals on how to best address failing schools across the country.
Teachers unions are currently at odds with the Obama administration over its decision to stay the course with its current education policy, replacing Arne Duncan, the outgoing secretary of education, with one of his like-minded deputies.
Brown praised Obama for not giving in to union pressure, but offered her concern that if a Democrat were to replace him in 2016, he would raise "a white flag of surrender to the teachers unions and their deep pockets."
Brown says the Democratic candidates should have the "courage to make the case" for their education policy.
"This set of candidates appears afraid to even tell the American people what they believe," said Brown. "Even if they disagree with the president’s reforms, you would think they would at least have the courage to make the case."
Hillary Clinton earlier this week won the endorsement of the the National Education Association. She was endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers in July.