The Giannoulias campaign has become quite adept at digging up dirt on Mark Kirk’s past. Its latest revelation: he used to be … a nursery school teacher!
Yes, that’s right. Early in his career, before politics and the military, Mark Kirk worked with children. Giannoulias’s oppo team even dug up a damning quote, delivered in a speech to the Illinois Education Association.
“As a former nursery school and middle school teacher, I know some of what it takes to bring order to class,” Kirk told the teachers.
They slipped this information to The New York Times, which asked its ace political reporter, Jeff Zeleny, to check it out.
Giannoulias may have figured that if Kirk puffed up his military service, he must have exaggerated his nursery school exploits, as well. Perhaps he claimed to be “Pre-K Teacher of the Year.”
The Times investigative unit looked into Kirk's claims that he was a teacher. Kirk taught in the nursery school of a United Methodist ministry in Ithaca, N.Y., as part of a work-study program while he was a student at Cornell University. While studying for a master’s degree at the London School of Economics, Kirk taught European history and English at Milestone College, a prep school.
TheTimes couldn't verify the information -- the nursery school didn't have records, and Milestone College closed in 1993 -- but couldn't disprove it either, although it did report that a "longtime member of the church who had a son in the nursery around the same time said she did not recall any male teachers." Remember, though, this was almost 30 years ago.
In his effort to catch Kirk in another lie, Giannoulias overreached and exposed a piece of Kirk’s biography that adds to the breadth of his experience. Teaching -- especially nursery school -- is not a pursuit normally associated with conservatives. It also shows a side of Kirk quite opposed to the he-man Naval officer he’s been trying to portray himself as.
In response to Giannoulias’s attack, Kirk formed a group called “Education Leaders for Kirk,” made up of Illinois teachers who want to see him elected to the Senate. As he did when defending his military record, he included testimonials from fellow teachers.
“For many people, the jobs we have early in life shape the people we become,” said Bill Wright, a director of the National Education Administration. “As a congressman, Mark Kirk formed an education advisory board consisting of teachers, administrators and education policy leaders to inform his work in Congress.”
Giannoulias had better stop digging into Kirk’s past, before he finds out the congressman was a fireman, a cowboy and healed sick puppies, too.