The Iowa State Education Association — the state teacher’s union — today (Friday) endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver. I-S-E-A president Linda Nelson of Council Bluffs says Culver’s past classroom experience played a role in the decision. “It was important to support Chet Culver because he is one of us,” Nelson says.

Culver taught history and was an assistant coach in two Des Moines high schools before he was elected Secretary of State in 1998. “I know what it’s like to be on the front lines,” Culver says. “What we need to do in Iowa is stand up and fight for education.” A dozen Iowa teachers — six Democrats representing the I-S-E-A’s Political Action Committee questioned both Culver and his Republican rival, Jim Nussle, today, then the group unanimously endorsed Culver even though Nussle has promised heftier teacher pay raises than Culver has.

Nelson says Nussle’s record in congress led them to believe he wouldn’t follow through on his promise. “His voting record with the National Education Association — our parent organization — ranged from zero percent to 25 percent at the highest point,” Nelson says. “Certainly both candidates talked about raising teacher salaries, and that’s what we wanted to hear,” Nelson says. “But what was important to our members was that Chet Culver truly had a plan in place that we intend to work with him…to make that happen.”

Nelson says Nussle has had an opportunity to show his support of education at the federal level but that record doesn’t suggest he’ll keep his promise on teacher salaries. “His demonstration the last 16 years don’t match with what he is saying,” Nelson says. Only once in the past 24 years has the I-S-E-A PAC endorsed a Republican candidate for governor. Former Governor Terry Branstad got the I-S-E-A’s backing in his 1986 reelection bid when he promised to raise teacher pay to the national average. Thirty-two thousand Iowa teachers are members of the I-S-E-A.