As a science teacher who is voting for Mitt Romney, Joan Moorhead says she sometimes feels isolated at school. But last week campaign officials asked the veteran teacher and longtime Republican activist to move into the limelight, naming her one of 14 co-chairs of National Educators for Romney.
Moorhead has spent 33 years teaching science to elementary and middle school students in the Davenport Community School District, which runs along the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa. A slew of awards, including being named teacher of the year by the Iowa Academy of Science, the Iowa Recycling Educators, and Wal-Mart, suggest that she's very good at it. But persuading her colleagues in this political swing state to support what the Romney campaign describes as the candidate's "bold education reforms that will put children first" could prove to be her toughest assignment.
"I'm a rarity as an active Republican teacher," she admits. "I was probably one of only five or six Republicans in a staff of nearly 100" at Williams Intermediate School, where she taught seventh grade biology for the past 13 years before moving last month to another district school, Blue Grass Elementary. But Moorhead is no novice when it comes to presidential politics: She sat down with Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, during the 2004 campaign, and this year she's met with Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, who hails from neighboring Wisconsin.
"He's offering teachers more freedom to teach," she says about why she likes Romney's stance on education. "We need to get away from all the paperwork required under No Child Left Behind [President George W. Bush's signature reforms of elementary and secondary education, which many Republicans now view as a failure and an intrusion of federal authority into state-run education systems]."
"No Child Left Behind sounds good, and it's generated a lot more data about what is happening in the classroom," she adds. "But we don't have the time or the resources to make use of that information. Romney wants to modify No Child Left Behind so that we spend less time trying to satisfy the requirements and use that time to benefit kids."
Moorhead is no less passionate about what she sees as the failed policies of President Barack Obama. "Education is the big one. But there are a lot of things I disagree with him on." She thinks that Obamacare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) "is detrimental to the middle class." And on the environment, she believes: "We need to look more closely at U.S. energy sources, to create jobs and so that we can become energy independent."
She says she doesn't belong to the local chapter of the teachers' union, the National Education Association (NEA), because "part of our dues goes to fund abortions." When pressed, Moorhead explains that she means NEA backs Democratic lawmakers who support federal funding of Planned Parenthood.
Asked if she has ever considered running for office herself, Moorhead laughs. "I don't have time. I teach." She says the Romney campaign has asked her to spend "an hour or two a week" spreading the word about the candidate and helping out whenever he visits the state. "I do it in the evenings," she says. "But my students come first."