Teachers Union Endorsement, what does this mean?

The Prior Lake-Savage Education Association (PLSEA) is the local chapter of the MN teachers union. PLSEA recently announced their endorsement of four school board candidates for the upcoming November election. Three of these candidates were endorsed by PLSEA in 2018 and were elected into office. The fourth candidate has worked closely with the current board (incumbents) while leading the TECH YES campaign, supporting the bid for a $35M technology levy that was not passed during the 2021 special election.

PLSEA invited all candidates to interview for endorsement which took place the evening of Thursday, September 15. Bill Markert and Lisa Atkinson chose to participate, along with incumbents Michael Nelson, Enrique Velazquez and Jonathan Drewes. Jessica Olstad (TECH YES) also interviewed that evening.

Union teachers had the opportunity to watch these interviews live on the PLSEA Facebook page between 4:30 and 8pm and were instructed to submit their recommendations via google form by 9pm that same evening. The video was later removed from the page so unavailable to be rewatched. Several sources have asked union representatives how many surveys were submitted and have reported variable responses of under 15.

15 surveys to represent the views of around 500 teachers in this district.

Union Endorsement Survey

The union notified Markert and Atkinson at 10:45 Friday morning that they were not being endorsed and teachers were informed of the union decision minutes before the announcement was made on social media.

Several concerns were brought up by the community in a local Facebook post. One of those concerns is that incumbent Michael Nelson was able to watch the candidates interviews prior to hers when a comment was posted by her 1:26 into the live feed reading, “Hope you have great conversations!”

Screenshot of comments during interviews.

Another, that a comment was made during Jonathan Drewes’ interview indicating that the union planned to endorse him. Also worth noting, Drewes was investigated following a racist remark that he had made about a PLSAS teacher of color, a person he referred to as an “import.”

Additionally, a question arose about the expediency of which the union released the endorsed candidate announcement graphic and the similarities between the background of Enrique Velazquez and Jessica Olstad’s photos. It was clear that those photos were taken well in advance of the interviews.

One would venture to ask why the union would feel the need to waste the time of the other candidates they never planned to endorse? Is this process equitable for all teachers who are required to pay dues that are then used by the union to support candidates that they have no say in endorsing? Is this a true representation of what the teachers of PLSAS want, and deserve, for leadership? Why would the union choose to endorse those who held up contract negotiations for months?

According to optouttoday.com,

“Education Minnesota collected $31.2 million in dues and fees from its members in fiscal year 2020, according to reports the union must file with the U.S. Dept. of Labor.

In that year alone:

  • $17.3 million went to affiliated organizations, including the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, both headquartered in Washington, D.C. This money finances their massive political, economic and social agendas and regular support for a host of controversial organizations.
  • $1.2 million was spent by Education Minnesota on political activity and lobbying.”

Educatedteachersmn.com shared that teachers in MN are given a 30 day window to opt-out of union contracts and that window closes today, September 30.

In 2018, PLSEA sent expensive flyers to households prior to the election to share their endorsement with stakeholders. Many unknowing citizens believed that these candidates were who teachers trusted and therefore what was in the best interest of their children. Sadly, since 2018, they have been at the forefront of plummeting proficiency rates and racial divide. Don’t make the same mistake twice…


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