Public Education Matters

Election Day is just weeks away and it is imperative that pro-public education candidates win their races at all levels. Barb Armour, a bus driver in Brunswick City Schools who sits on one of the OEA Fund District Screening Councils, explains how OEA Members decide which candidates should get the support of Ohio's educators.

Show Notes

Choosing the OEA Member-recommended Candidates - Season 3, Episode 4
Election Day is just weeks away and it is imperative that pro-public education candidates win their races at all levels. Barb Armour, a bus driver in Brunswick City Schools who sits on one of the OEA Fund District Screening Councils, explains how OEA Members decide which candidates should get the support of Ohio's educators. 
MORE | OEA Members can learn more about the OEA Member-recommended candidates on the ballot in their community by visiting You can also learn more about the OEA Fund and its screening and endorsement process here

SUBSCRIBE | Click here to subscribe to Education Matters on Apple Podcasts or click here to subscribe on Google podcasts so you don't miss a thing. And don't forget you can listen to all of the previous episodes anytime on your favorite podcast platform, or by clicking here.
Featured Education Matters guest: 
  • Barb Armour, Bus Driver, Brunswick City Schools
    • Barb Armour has been a bus driver for 28 years. She is a building rep for the Brunswick Education Support Professionals local association. She also serves as ESP At-large on the Northeast Ohio Education Association's (NEOEA) Board of Directors and sits on the NEWOEA District Screening Council 1. Armour was selected as OEA's ESP of the Year in 2020.

Connect with OEA:
About us:
  • The Ohio Education Association represents about 120,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals who work in Ohio’s schools, colleges, and universities to help improve public education and the lives of Ohio’s children. OEA members provide professional services to benefit students, schools, and the public in virtually every position needed to run Ohio’s schools.
  • Education Matters host Katie Olmsted serves as Media Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. She joined OEA in May, 2020, after a ten-year career as a television reporter, anchor, and producer. Katie comes from a family of educators and is passionate about telling educators' stories and advocating for Ohio's students. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two young children.
This episode was recorded on September 21, 2022.

What is Public Education Matters?

Ohio's public schools serve 1.6 million children - 90 percent of students in the state! What happens in the classroom has impacts far beyond the walls of the K-12 school building or higher ed lecture hall. So, on behalf of the 120,000 members of the Ohio Education Association, we're taking a deeper dive into some of the many education issues facing our students, educators, and communities. Originally launched in 2021 as Education Matters, Public Education Matters is your source for insightful conversations with the people who shape the education landscape in Ohio. Have a topic you'd like to hear about on Public Education Matters? Email us at

Intro 0:07
This is Education Matters, brought to you by the Ohio Education Association.

Katie Olmsted 0:15
Thank you for joining us for this edition of Education Matters. I'm Katie Olmsted, part of the communications team for the Ohio Education Association and the 120,000 teachers, higher ed faculty members and education support professionals OEA represents in the state. Our members have a wide range of opinions on, well, everything, but especially when it comes to politics. We have Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and everything in between in our ranks. The one thing we all agree on, though, is that we believe in our public schools and in our students, and that is why it is so important to make sure pro public education candidates are leading at all levels. And getting the support of OEA members, as well as contributions from the OEA fund can make a huge difference in helping those candidates win their races. But who makes the decisions about who gets that support? The short answer is OEA members. The longer answer involves taking a little bit of a dive into the screening and endorsement process. So here's a quick crash course. Endorsement decisions for Ohio House and Senate candidates are made by OEA members who serve on local screening committees. Those are made up of a five member District Screening Council -- appointed by the OEA district leadership -- plus leaders of the local associations within those legislative districts and OEA-Retired, and Aspiring Educator members may also serve on those local screening committees to candidates. For statewide office like Governor, State Attorney General, and the like - Those are screened by OEA Fund's State Council, which makes recommendations to the OEA Fund State Convention where OEA members vote on those recommendations. But while WHO makes those decisions is important. The bigger question is how Barb Armour, a school bus driver in Brunswick City Schools joins us now to explain. She's the ESP at large on the Northeast Ohio education Association's board of directors and was OEA ESP of the Year in 2020. And most importantly, for this conversation, she is a member of the OEA Fund District Screening Council 1 in Northeast Ohio.

Katie Olmsted 2:42
Barb, thank you so much for taking the time to explain this whole process for us. Let's start with the very beginning for you. How did you get involved in these screening committees?

Barb Armour 2:53
Well, it was an Ask. Somebody asked if I'd like to sit in on us in the screening committee, they were looking for an ESP members directly because there weren't many who would sit in on the screening process. And since I was a board of director member, they had asked me to do that I was an OEA Board of Director member at the time. So I said, Okay, not really knowing what I was getting involved in. But I started doing it. And I really enjoyed it. It was quite an educational process. But we had a lot of good people with staff and people who have done it for a while to guide you along. We had some people who are in the retired sector who are on the screening committee, we have people who had experience who guided us on what to do. And it caught on very quickly on how to you know, screen the candidates. And it really is a really good process that they've worked on along the time.

Katie Olmsted 3:51
So how do you screen the candidates? What is that process?

Unknown Speaker 3:56
Well, there's a specific set of questions that each candidate fills out a questionnaire. They get it in advance, and some send it in, some don't. If they don't send it in, some don't wish to screen, then they don't come screen. We only screen them if they wish to be screened, and we will screen anybody. We do not pick and choose. Everybody is invited to fill out the questionnaire. Every candidate is invited to come screen with us, many have. So we've invited both Republicans, Democrats, and we have screened all of them who have come. We've had a couple of controversial screenings that we actually have endorsed, and that's a whole nother story that we could tell. But you know, sometimes you sit there and you go, Oh, should we do this person? Are they going to get mad at us down at state for the OEA convention for but you know, sometimes you feel like this is the best person to endorse, You got to make sure that staff have Help sisters, you know, with their DPI and RPI and all that to know what their ratings are and how electable they are. So you ask the same set of questions of each candidate. And then the team who's assembled there, the group of people picks out a few questions and dives a little deeper into there. Lets them explain their answers. And then they give an opening statement and a closing statement. Let us know how their campaign is running. You know, how much funding they have. And then we have a discussion afterwards, after they're all done.

Katie Olmsted 5:34
So what kind of questions are we talking about here? One, I think, one of the misconceptions I think about our entire process is that we're picking people based on - Well, I should say, to dispel part of that, WE are not picking anybody. I'm not part of this process. I'm staff. It is members and members only who makes the decision.

Barb Armour 5:56
It is all member driven. Correct.

Katie Olmsted 5:57
But also, it's not based on political ideology, or political party affiliation or anything like that. It is only about their positions on the public education issues.

Barb Armour 6:09
Right. We only focus on educational issues. Right now, they're focusing on charter schools, you know, how they feel about gun safety in schools, testing, privatization, as far as like, you know, bus drivers and cafeteria workers, things like that. And funding. Funding is a big issue. Those type of things are some of the questions that have been brought up. The state, there's a whole committee that goes over all the questions, and comes up with a set of like, 13 to 16 questions. So out of those 13 to 16 questions, you know that the candidate will answer those. And then we pick out maybe five, depending on time, five to six questions, to dive into deeper, depending on what their answers are. Some of them go with some of these questions are collective bargaining. And some of those are just Yes/No answers. And you know, you don't have to go any further on those. If they're yes, they're yes. If they're no, they're no, they're no. There's nothing else to really say about that.

Katie Olmsted 7:09
Now, I do want to dive deeper into a couple of things that you have brought up already in this conversation. One of them is the easy question. You mentioned you have ESPs, the retired members - How important is it to have diverse perspectives on these screening committees?

Barb Armour 7:27
Well, it's very important because everybody who listens to the answers of the candidate then puts their own views into when we have our discussion on how they feel the candidate did and how they feel the candidate is going to be bringing our agenda forward in the state house or, you know, down in Columbus or on the board of education, you know. So that's, that's very important to all of us, even the retired to how their issues are going to be brought forward.

Katie Olmsted 8:05
So here's my second question. The slightly trickier one. You mentioned some of your choices have been a little controversial, and you were afraid they'd get mad at you down in Columbus,

Barb Armour 8:17
What our recommendation is to take down to Columbus, correct.

Katie Olmsted 8:21
When you're thinking about what would make somebody a controversial pick, what are you worried about? And how do you reconcile that with the recommendations you're making?

Barb Armour 8:31
Well, the one most controversial person was somebody who had voted for SB 5 (Senate Bill 5).

Katie Olmsted 8:39

Barb Armour 8:41
when they broke protocol, they were told not to screen. And they did come and screen with us. They filled out the form. They answered, they came and sat with us. And they explained a lot of things. And we all sat there and looked at each other and said, we think we should endorse this person. And staff was like, what? We're like, they've screened, they've they've broken protocol with what they were actually told to do by their leadership. So we said we're recommending them for endorsement, and we did, and it went through. And sometimes you just got to take the big leap and say, We really believe this person is a changed person, and you know what, it ended up being a good thing for us.

Katie Olmsted 9:29
So let's explain the process a little bit further here. You do the initial screening, then you have that that interview with the candidate. You make a recommendation, and then what happens?

Barb Armour 9:41
Papers get filled out. It goes down to Columbus. Gets signed off by the President of OEA, vice president and then the governance book committee decides who best would get the funding. Who needs it the most in their, you know, campaigns, because some campaigns are very well funded some campaigns a little less and need more of OEA help. Because our funds are limited. I mean, you know, our dues don't go to that only the Ohio Fund money goes to that what people have donated. So we have to be careful with how we use our funds. We have to use it in the best way.

Katie Olmsted 10:27
And I'm glad you brought up some of these things. Because again, I think a lot of our conversation is just about dispelling some of the misconceptions about the screening process and the Fund. As you mentioned, the dues are never used for these political contributions. That is the law. It is all voluntary contributions from OEA members and their family members to the OEA Fund. Only OEA members are deciding how that money should be spent to support the campaigns. Are there other things that you wish people understood about how this all works?

Barb Armour 11:03
A lot of people are invited to come to the screenings presidents of the locals. So if they don't come, their voices aren't being heard. The presidents of all the locals in that, like senate district or house district are invited to come to the screenings. So if they're not coming, then their voices aren't being put in to the decision. So they need to get more involved in to come to these.

Katie Olmsted 11:29
And the same is true for all OEA members. You know, this time of year I get some calls from people saying well, how are these decisions made? How could I make those decisions? What does that look like? How can people get involved in this?

Barb Armour 11:45
If you're involved in your District, I guess there's a lot of like,

Katie Olmsted 11:52
Your OEA district, not your school district, to be clear.

Katie Olmsted 11:53
OEA district, yes. Like, I'm from NEOEA. So we have like the legislative committee. And I'm sure most other districts have those also. Being involved in that type of thing, you're getting your name out there, you're telling your district president, your executive director, like, hey, I'm really interested in this. I'd like to be in a screening committee, I'd like to follow through, I'd like to know what's going on. They can assign you to these things, because we're always looking for people to to be on these committees to do this work.

Katie Olmsted 12:25
So reach out to your district leadership, if you're interested in doing something like this.

Barb Armour 12:31

Katie Olmsted 12:32
Why, I know why you started doing it. Why do you keep doing it?

Barb Armour 12:36
Because I have gotten a connection with the people on the team. And even some of the candidates, I guess, you know, you you start seeing some of them coming back to screen. You're like, cool, yeah, I know who they are. And it's nice to see that they're still involved. And they're still wanting the connection with all the educators and still willing to listen to what our voices are and wanting to know our opinions on things. So that's a really good thing. To know that they are still interested in us as much as we are interested in them.

Katie Olmsted 13:19
At the end of the day, what does an OEA endorsement really mean? What weight do you think that holds?

Barb Armour 13:25
When there's controversial bills going through the House and the Senate, when our President and Vice President are down there trying to, and lobbyists, you know, are trying to say, hey, you know, we helped support you, then they're like, oh, yeah, you guys were out there for me and you, you endorsed me, and, you know, I really appreciated that. And, you know, but and they understand by talking with us what our issues are. And they know that they can call on us if they have a question to be educated on because they don't know everything they say they tell us we don't know everything. Some of them do know quite a bit. Some of them were teachers, but some of them are like, I'm confused about this. And they will they know who to call to get those questions answered. So making those connections with them is is really part of the whole process.

Katie Olmsted 14:22
Educators educating. Who would have thought? And educators getting pro-public education candidates into these offices around the state. Yeah, that makes a big difference in our classrooms, on our school buses. It makes a difference in our in our schools every single day.

Barb Armour 14:42
Right, because everything that happens in Columbus affects everything in our schools. I mean, people think, Oh, what is it what difference does it make all the bills they pass, the laws they pass? It affects us. You know, it just comes down to the out is it's

Katie Olmsted 15:01
Even down to the tone of their rhetoric, the way they talk about public education, you have some people who are, you know, trying to manufacture controversy around it. It's good to have friends who are going to tamp down that conversation. Right?

Barb Armour 15:17

Katie Olmsted 15:19
What has this year looked like for you on the screening committee versus other years? Any, any standout moments for you?

Barb Armour 15:26
We had a couple of screenings where we had a really nice large group of members show up. We had one screening where we went from 11 in the morning to well after six in the evening,

Katie Olmsted 15:41

Barb Armour 15:42
All day. And there was probably over 20 of us there. So it was quite an event.

Katie Olmsted 15:53
As somebody who has generally been very engaged in the process, what does it feel like to you to see other people coming into that and feeling that sense of engagement?

Barb Armour 16:03
That's exciting to see people come in, especially, you know, a big group like that new people to, you know, see. And I think the candidates feel the excitement in the room by seeing so many people who are interested in hearing what they have to say, because they're like, oh, so it's not just one or two people. It's a group of people that, wow, here they are, they're all here to see me. And I think they find that when this many people are interested in them, that they feel like, wow, this is an important event that I am coming to. And I need to tell my constituents that this is an important thing to come to we need to do this. It's not just oh, here fill out paper, and we're done.

Katie Olmsted 16:49
And they are addressing their constituents. When we do these screenings in the district, it's for candidates who would represent the people in that district. Correct?

Barb Armour 16:59
Right. Now the District Screening Council, we go to many places that we go to not just our own area, right. So out in about. I mean, because like I've been to Twinsburg, I've screened from Norwalk. So we've been many places, but that's because we're in the whole council. But then those more local people were there, like from the Twinsburg area, Nordonia, seeing their own constituents there with them, which was very nice.

Katie Olmsted 17:33
Are there challenges you face when you have to make these decisions? It can't always be easy.

Barb Armour 17:39
Sometimes, but it, you know, that's when you can ask questions of staff, because then they have some background to help you with that. So that really comes into play there, if you need it.

Katie Olmsted 17:55
What would be the one message you have for other OEA members about this process, about the importance of this process and about what you'd want to see from them in this process?

Barb Armour 18:11
It sounds like it's scary to do, but it's not. It's it's important, it's important to get in there and screen these candidates to - We are the people that endorse them. The members are the people that endorse our candidates for state house, not staff, not governance, it's the membership. And if you're not active in the membership doing it, then you have nothing to complain about. You should be up there doing it. So it's not scary. It's, they help you do it. There's training for it. It's a rewarding activity to screen with these people and to speak with them to hear their views to know what they're going to do when they're down in Columbus, as far as education. I mean, that's not the whole broad thing of it, but to know that they are there for us, and to get the whole story of what they want to do as far as education issues.

Katie Olmsted 19:11
And to know that the decisions that you're making as a member representing the 120,000 members of OEA, that really can make a big difference in terms of getting those pro-public education candidates into office. Yes, you got the power.

Barb Armour 19:29
Yes, the membership has the power then. That's right.

Katie Olmsted 19:32
Barb, thank you so much for explaining it all.

Barb Armour 19:35
Thank you.

Katie Olmsted 19:38
Okay, so now that we've sorted out how the recommendation decisions are made, it's time for you to check out who OEA members have recommended for the races in your area. OEA members can go to to learn more, or you can find some important links in the show notes for this episode. Between now and Election Day, we'll hear from some of the OEA member-recommended candidates who are running for office this year, including a few OEA members-turned-candidates who will be on the ballot. Remember, the voter registration deadline for this November's election is October 11. And early in person absentee voting begins October 12 in Ohio. Election Day is November 8. Until next time, stay well.

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