Davis Defeats Saunders in WTU Run-Off Election

Dorothy Rowley | 7/2/2013, 4:16 p.m.
Elizabeth Davis

Washington Teachers' Union activist and veteran educator Elizabeth A. Davis defeated incumbent Nathan Saunders on Monday in a run-off election for the union president, hinting that she's poised to be a greater force challenging the manner in which D.C. public schools are managed.

Davis, who captured 55 percent of the final vote, takes the reins as the union negotiates a new contract for its 4,000 members. The contract, which Saunders was finalizing, would include teacher salary increases and provisions for extended school days and a longer academic term.

According to the union's constitution and bylaws, Davis would immediately assume control, though a teacher's union committee indicated the transition likely wouldn't happen until next month.

"Teachers want the WTU to be less controlled by one person and more engaged with the full range of issues impacting teachers, students and schools," said Davis, who once ran unsuccessfully against Saunders and former union president George Parker. "We campaigned on a platform that said the union can be much better."

Saunders edged Davis in the first round of voting in June, but failed to win a 51 percent majority, leading to Monday's run-off election.

"It was a referendum on many fronts," said Saunders, who was elected president in 2010. "They want more aggressive change than what I was dishing out."

The election results, which have been described as game-changing, come as Mayor Vincent C. Gray proposes legislation to give D.C. public schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson the power to approve new charter schools. In that event, there could be a quicker shift in the move from unionized teachers.

Additionally, under a seven-bill schools reformation package that has been introduced by at-large D.C. Council member David Catania, Henderson might also acquire the leverage to disregard union rules while transforming underperforming schools to high-performing charters.