Miami teacher disturbed by politicians who send campaign messages to school email accounts
By Victor Skinner
MIAMI – High school English teacher Will Cohen and his fellow educators in Miami-Dade public schools know it’s important to keep politically charged material out of the classroom, and their personal political beliefs out of their lessons. […]
That’s why a recent email Cohen received from Joe Garcia, Democratic candidate for Florida’s 26th congressional district, really got under his skin.
The Garcia campaign message, sent to the publicly funded email accounts of numerous Miami teachers, not only espoused the benefits of electing him to office, but also included a direct solicitation for campaign funds – something that Cohen said offended him and his fellow colleagues on multiple levels.
“In schools we’re always talking about how we’re not supposed to be political, and then these people send political solicitations to our school email accounts,” Cohen told EAGnews.org. “I think it is inappropriate, and to be honest it’s an abuse of public resources.”
Cohen believes politicking through teachers’ emails violates the district’s school board policy, and he forwarded the Garcia solicitation to school officials with his concerns. He also wrote a letter of complaint to his local teachers union, the United Teachers of Dade, because the UTD has endorsed Garcia in the congressional race. […]
“My issue isn’t with the school system, it’s with the politicians,” Cohen said. “We have to be able to trust politicians not to abuse public resources.”
Teacher emails are open targets
In an email sent to teachers in June, Garcia explained that Florida redistricting created a new congressional district, and his campaign is “hitting high gear as we ramp up our efforts to take back our community.”
The email prompted readers to visit his campaign website, stressed his message of “bringing jobs back to South Florida,” and solicited help to “push us over the finish line in November.”
The email closed with a request for “$10 or more today,” because “every dollar raised brings us closer (to) sending (incumbent) David Rivera packing in November.”
Shortly after receiving Garcia’s email, Cohen voiced his concerns in an email to Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho:
“(Public) resources should under no circumstances be expended in pursuit of political goals. That is why I was so deeply disappointed recently to receive, on our taxpayer-funded email accounts, not just an email from a political candidate … but a direct solicitation for campaign funds,” Cohen wrote.
“I oppose our emails being shared for a purpose so inconsistent with the non-political nature of our work in Miami-Dade public schools, and respectfully request that Joe Garcia’s campaign is instructed to stop using the … (teacher) email list. In addition, I also request that the school board investigate the source of this transgression to ensure no taxpayer funds are used to promote political candidates. […]
Nobody claims responsibility
…the underlying issue involving spammers’ abuse of public email addresses is that it erodes the creditability of their message, and raises questions about their character. […]
Karyn Cunningham, government action specialist for United Teachers of Dade – which represents Cohen as a teacher/union member and backs Garcia’s bid for Congress – had no comment when contacted about whether the union believes politically charged emails are appropriate to send to teachers.