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Despite NEA's Nod To Clinton, Vermont Teachers' Union Still Supports Sanders

Michael Dwyer / Charlie Neibergall
The Vermont chapter of the NEA was an early supporter of Bernie Sanders (left), and will maintain their endorsement despite the NEA's national arm announcing support for Clinton.

Vermont's teachers union plans to actively support Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign even though their national organization, the NEA, has endorsed Hillary Clinton.

An effort by the Vermont NEA to postpone the endorsement of Clinton by the national union — the largest in the nation — was not successful.

The Vermont NEAwas an early supporter of Sanders' presidential campaign. Less than a month after his official announcement, the group formally endorsed his candidacy.

Martha Allen is the president of the Vermont NEA. She's spent the last few months lobbying her colleagues across the country to support Sanders' presidential bid.

But when the national Board of Directors met last week, Allen says it was clear that the group was going to endorse Hillary Clinton. That's why Allen proposed a motion to delay any endorsement for several months.

"He seems to be gaining headway steadily and he's not showing a sign of slowing down. I thought it was important to wait a couple of months to see how things were going in both camps and then re-evaluate whether we should make an endorsement," Allen said.

Allen says Sanders has always had a strong record on educational issues of concern to her group and she says his policies to address income inequality are a top priority for Vermont's teachers.

"He's always been speaking about this throughout his career. He doesn't change with the tide — I think that that he is genuine in what he says and I think that is what is appealing to our members."

Allen says there's no way that her group can support the endorsement of Hillary Clinton by the national teachers organization.

"I don't see how my membership could abandon Bernie's campaign and jump on Hillary's at this point," she said.

The National Teachers Union will be able to contribute money to the Clinton campaign through its political action committee. That's something that a state union is not allowed to do. Nonetheless, Allen is confident that many of her members will make — or have made — personal contributions to the Sanders campaign.

Sanders is set to receive his first Congressional endorsement this week. The head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva is expected to back Sanders on Friday when Sanders holds an event in Tucson.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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