"I have been proud to carry the VT-NEA endorsement in every one of my past elections, but given your support of Phil Scott I am no longer interested," Pearson (pictured at right) wrote union president Martha Allen and executive director Joel Cook in an email obtained by Seven Days. "It seems your endorsements have ceased to be grounded in a voting record or stance on issues."
The 12,000-member union announced its endorsement of statewide candidates on Monday and plans to unveil its endorsements of legislative candidates early next week. The teachers' union mostly backed incumbent office-holders, including Gov. Peter Shumlin, Secretary of State Jim Condos, Treasurer Beth Pearce and Scott — as well as long-time Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex/Orleans), who is running for state auditor.
Pearson, who heads the Progressive Party's House caucus, also took issue with the NEA's endorsement of Illuzzi over Democrat and Progressive Doug Hoffer. He noted that Illuzzi supported a 2007 law requiring voters to vote twice on school budgets that increased more than a percent point higher than the rate of inflation — a position at odds with the NEA's.
"I know their endorsements in the past have hinged on that very vote," Pearson said in an interview. "So it was a little surprising."
NEA spokesman Darren Allen says his organization is taking Pearson's email in stride — and won't let it interfere with the union's generally close relationship with the legislator.
"Obviously we're disappointed that Rep. Pearson chooses not to be recommended for election by the state's educators. Obviously we will honor his request not to recommend his candidacy to our 12,000 members," Allen said. "That said, we have a great working relationship with him. He is solidly on the side of working men and women."
While Allen said he's "not going to try to get into Rep. Pearson's head," he pushed back on the notion that Scott and Illuzzi have not supported positions important to teachers.
Arguing that Illuzzi's endorsement was "earned over the decades," Allen said, "He has always been loyal to labor. Even our friends make mistakes sometimes."
As for Scott, Allen said the lite gov, "gave a very good response saying standardized testing should not be used to evaluate teachers."
"For me, the NEA can always count on my vote because I believe in public education, I believe in supporting organized labor and the issues they fight for," he says. "This seemed like a way I could send a message."