In Oak Park, we pride ourselves on independent thought. We encourage it in our schools. Our schools encourage it in our students.

With that ethos in mind, I find it concerning two candidates for the District 200 school board, Ralph Martire and Gina Harris, have financial and political ties to a wealthy and one of most politically powerful organizations in the state, which also happens to represent D200 teachers: the Illinois Education Association.

The IEA holds $55 million in assets. Their parent corporation (NEA) and affiliates nationwide registered over $1.6 billion in revenue last year. Tax free dollars, that is (just like those evil corporations).

And it’s political. Both state teacher unions classify their contributions to Mr. Martire’s mostly union-funded Center for Tax and Budget Accountability as political activity. Even a portion of Ms. Harris’ time, paid for by the union, is classified as political activities and lobbying. What do they say about politics and the board room?

Teacher unions have their tentacles in nearly every significant political move in our state. They’ve spent decades lobbying for higher taxes on OPRF’s working families, and for the past decade or so, the CTBA has been like their marketing division. When the unions reach their legal contribution limits for political candidates, they call their rich “parents” in DC for more money or shuffle dollars between political allies and form another PAC (as CTU did for Brandon Johnson).

Undoubtedly, these are two smart individuals with much to contribute to the education conversation. Let them make that contribution on company time. Keep the D200 school board independent.

Nick Binotti

Oak Park

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