Red for Ed — whose name most commonly appears with a hashtag as #RedforEd — is a movement that was initially organized on Facebook in March 2018 by Noah Karvelis, a 24-year-old socialist activist who was employed as a public-school music teacher in Arizona. From its inception, #RedforEd’s stated purpose was to lobby for better pay and benefits for public school teachers in that state. But its larger, and more significant, objective was a political one: to influence national public opinion to such an extent as to help transform Republican states and swing states into Democratic states as quickly as possible.
#RedforEd is overseen by Arizona Educators United, an organization wherein Karvelis is likewise a leading figure. #RedforEd’s name is derived from the “Wear Red for Public Ed” campaign that Florida schoolteacher Donna Yates Mace started on Facebook in late 2010 to register opposition to the proposed education reforms of Florida’s newly elected Republican governor, Rick Scott. With assistance from the Florida Education Association and “The Million Teacher March” Facebook site started by Illinois public school teacher Chris Janotta, Mace organized a “National Wear Red for Public Ed Day” on January 4, 2011, to protest Scott’s inauguration. The “Wear Red for Public Ed” campaign subsequently spread to Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Education Association was stridently opposed to the labor union reform proposals of Republican governor Scott Walker. The campaign then continued, with varying degrees of success, among teachers’ unions across the United States from 2012-17. But it achieved new heights of militancy after Donald Trump ascended to the White House in January 2017. Karvelis’ temperament found a welcoming home in that combative milieu.
#RedforEd’s initial public action took place on April 26, 2018, when tens of thousands of teachers and support staff – all attired in red clothing – walked out of their schools and marched from downtown Phoenix to the State Capitol to demand more taxpayer funding for public education.
#RedforEd was further radicalized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which stipulated that because of First Amendment considerations, public-sector unions could no longer compel non-members to pay union dues. This decision greatly angered #RedforEd as well as its union allies, including the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). As longtime California schoolteacher Rebecca Friedrichs said: “I know #RedforEd is a direct correlation to the Janus decision because during Janus’s oral arguments, the attorney for the unions made the following threat. He told the Justices that if employees were freed from forced unions fees, that unions would, quote, ‘raise an untold specter of union unrest throughout the country,’ end quote, because quote, ‘union security is the trade-off for no strikes.’”
#RedforEd’s political activism – in the form of strikes and walkouts – grew exponentially in 2018, as major actions were held in states like West Virginia, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina, and Washington. Numerous #RedforEd-affiliated teachers also gave expression to their political agendas by running for public office. As the NEA reported in October 2018: “More than 1,500 educators across the country have filed to run for office for state legislature races and higher federal and statewide seats (with many more running for city council, school board, and other seats). Some were inspired by #RedforEd,”
#RedforEd picked up still more momentum in 2019, when:
Further Reading: “What Is #RedforED?” (Education Week, 5-3-2018); “#RedforEd: Socialists Organizing Teachers to Turn Purple States Blue by 2020” (by Michael Patrick Leahy, 2-19-2019); “Red for Ed Movement No Longer a Revolution, but It’s Still Alive” (Arizona Capitol Times, 5-3-2019); “Top Ten #RedforEd Political Power Plays in 2019” (by Michael Patrick Leahy, 12-31-2019); “More Red Than Ed” (by Larry Sand, 1-7-2020).