This story has been updated with comments from Shull and McKim.
In a key endorsement in the school board race, the local teachers union PAC has endorsed James Craig and Corrie Shull.
Both Craig and Shull announced their endorsements from Better Schools Kentucky on social media Wednesday night. BSK is the political action committee of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, which represents over 6,000 local teachers.
Two of the four seats up for election this year, Districts 3 and 6, are four-way races. A 12-person endorsement committee, made of teachers across the county, interviewed all but one of the candidates in the contested races, JCTA President Brent McKim said.
McKim said Craig impressed the committee with his knowledge of public policy and issues impacting the district, along with his passion for kids. Shull is an “articulate spokesperson for public schools,” McKim said, adding that he impressed the committee with his public support of local control in recent months.
The union endorsement “carries a lot of weight,” McKim said. All endorsed candidates won their races in the past two election cycles. In 2016, both endorsed candidates — Ben Gies and Chris Brady — won their elections. In 2014, all endorsed candidates also won their elections.
The committee is thorough in its endorsement, McKim said, and the community recognizes that. The impact of teachers, especially after a tumultuous spring for public education and cries to remember in November, also helps.
Endorsed candidates typically receive indirect campaign support from the PAC, which has nearly $1.4 million in funds according to the most recent Kentucky Registry of Election Finance information. McKim said the committee has only decided who to endorse, not how they will help the campaigns, thus far.
Shull, a pastor running in District 6 for Lisa Willner’s seat, was first to publicly announce his endorsement.
“I am beyond excited and proud to have received the official endorsement of the @JCTAKY as the candidate for School Board District 6!!” Shull tweeted. “I look forward to continuing the good work of @lgwillner with the people of District 6! Thank you JCTA! #OurJCPS”
Shull said he plans on supporting teachers by advocating for them in board decisions and standing up for their bargaining rights.
“Utmost priority will be given to championing teacher-led, deep and rich approaches to learning across the district ensuring that we integrate the best approaches to helping our students master information,” Shull said.
Minutes after Shull’s announcement, Craig, an attorney, said he had been endorsed in the District 3 race to replace Steph Horne.
“Thank you so much to every teacher with @JCTAKY for your endorsement this evening!” Craig tweeted. “I am honored that Louisville teachers have my back. I’ll always have theirs.”
When asked how he would support teachers if elected, Craig said the answer was simple, “By listening to them.”
“No one knows how to reach a student better than a teacher, certainly not an elected politician,” Craig said. “When teachers say they need more resources in the classroom and better facilities, I’ll be listening.”
The PAC was not the first endorsement either candidate received in the campaign. Shull said Willner, who is running for state representative, endorsed him in his campaign announcement. He quickly picked up a second endorsement from board member Chris Kolb, who is not up for re-election this year, on social media.
Former state auditor Adam Edelen, who led an audit of JCPS in 2014, endorsed Craig. Willner also endorsed him, as did former board member John Heyburn, Craig told Insider.
A total of 10 people are running for school board across the four available seats. The Chairwoman Diane Porter and member Linda Duncan are running unopposed for re-election.
Both Craig and Shull spoke favorably of the recently passed union contract in a candidate questionnaire from Insider, praising its inclusion of incentives for priority schoolteachers. Shull called it “a step in the right direction,” while Craig said it was “good for the community.”