Out of all the election questionnaires to screw up, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers form shouldn't have been one of them. At least not for state Sen. Anthony H. Williams, who has long been viewed as the pro-charter candidate because of his support of charter schools and the amount of funding he has received from pro-voucher groups.
But instead of listing education funding or anything related to education, Williams listed the following as his "top three legislative priorities for your term in office":
1. Mandate annual inspections for day care facilities
2. Department of Licenses and Inspections reform
3. Pass an operating/capital budget that increases Streets Department and infrastructure spending
The top three legislative priorities were just one section of the PFT questionnaire that all six mayoral candidates filled out prior to their endorsement Q&As with the union members Wednesday. Candidates were asked to respond to the PFT's seven platform points, including implementing a weighted funding formula and advocating for charter schools accountability.
When asked why he included day cares and L&I as his top legislative priorities and not education, Williams initially tried to connect day cares to his platform for increasing funding for pre-Kindergarten.
"You want to prepare them so that when they enter kindergarten, they have the cognitive ability to connect with what a good kindergarten teacher is providing and that comes in a large part through our daycare system in Philadelphia," he said following his meeting with the PFT.
When pressed further on the disconnect between his listed legislative priorities and the campaign's education issue, Williams said he wasn't sure what that list was.
"I can't tell you I necessarily reflected those," he said before being ushered away by his campaign staff. Williams' spokesman later said that "Our staff made a mistake and confused the answers… the Senator's legislative priorities are and have always been great public schools for everyone, more jobs with a living wage and safe neighborhoods."
Williams wasn't the only one who had a questionnaire blunder Wednesday.
Nelson Diaz wasn't aware that his questionnaire had listed mandating full time, unionized registered school nurses and counselors in every school as "low priority."
When asked about it Wednesday, Diaz said:
"It is a priority of mine," Diaz said about counselors and nurses at each school. "I don't know who said that but... nurses are a priority because you need to have a wrap-around program."
His questionnaire had not only listed those two categories as "low priority" but it added an additional comment at the end saying: "While every school needs nurses and counselors, I am not certain that every school needs a full time nurse and counselor… [I] do not want to establish a mandate that might not be appropriate for every situation and every school."
The PFT questionnaires are just one of many every candidate needs to fill our as it seeks the various endorsements before the May 19 primary. Between fundraising, meetings and other campaign nuts and bolts, the questionnaires are often left to campaign staff to fill out. Hence, the oversight in answers from some of the candidates.
The PFT questionnaires and the Q&As with the members Wednesday will be taken into consideration when the 12,000 teacher union members have the opportunity to vote on which candidate to endorse for mayor.