The Seduction of Peggy Lehner by Big Government Employee Unions is Complete

By Scott Allan Pullins, Esq.


            State Senator Peggy Lehner, the powerful long time Chair of the Senate Education Committee, did not begin her political career as an ethically challenged, charter school opponent spear carrier.  When she was first appointed and then elected to the Ohio Senate, she was thought of as a normal, everyday, pro-business, pro-life Republican not unlike her predecessor Jon Husted.  Her top campaign donors during that time reflect a limited government philosophy which then included major GOP donors such as Clay Mathile and Ginni Ragan.


            But something changed the longer Senator Lehner chaired the Senate Education Committee.  Big, liberal government employee unions, most notably the Ohio Education Association (OEA) and the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) began their attempts to curry favor with her.


            It all started in 2013.  The OEA political action committee, which is solely funded by the mandatory dues of its teacher members, made their first set of contributions totaling $2,500 to Senator Lehner’s campaign fund.  In 2015, the labor behemoth upped their ante to $3,750, but the real payoff was still to come.


            So far in the 2016 reporting cycle the OEA has contributed a whopping $13,532.34 while the OFT has chipped in another $2,000.  And Lehner’s post general report is not due until December 16, 2016. 


            $12,532.34 represents the OEA’s contribution to Lehner during the general election reporting period and is the maximum that an individual or political action committee can give to a state candidate.  It was also the largest contribution to Lehner in 2016 from any donor.


            How times have changed.  The OEA and the OFT are vicious opponents of anything that even smells, looks, or acts like school choice.  They put out what seems like a never ending stream of anti-school choice studies, articles, and other assorted missives. 


            So why in the heck would they give money to Lehner, a legislator that in 2015 the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools named as their first Legislator of the Year?  Why would she even accept these coerced and tainted funds? 


            Why indeed? 


            As reported at this site previously, the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools is shutting down at the end of the year.  A newly formed coalition of online schools sounds promising, but as 3rd Rail Politics has reported, some online schools and their lobbyists are boycotting the coalition.


            School choice supporters, including operators, authorizers, and their boards need to get their acts together.  They need to figure out who their friends are, and who they aren’t, and then begin to speak with once voice.  If not, then school choice opponents will continue to seduce legislators over to their side just like they did with Senator Peggy Lehner.