Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day is Here!

Today is Election Day. All across the country, voters will turn out to the polls to vote for the people who they hope will successfully lead America, their states, and their cities to the next area of freedom and prosperity. In addition to political positions, citizens will be deciding whether to support initiatives that will have a significant impact on school funding and school operations. Here are just a few of the ballot measures out there that will impact education:

  • Voters in Georgia will be voting on a referendum that would allow the state to create charter schools without much input from school districts. 
  • Florida will be voting on Amendment 8, which would allow the state to give money to religious institutions that provide social services. Many feel that this is a backdoor to the expansion of school vouchers.
  • Voters in Washington State will be voting (again) on whether to allow charter schools to open in the state.
  • Seminole County, Florida voters will determine whether the district can levy a property tax hike to fund the financially starved, yet high achieving school district.

When it comes to the presidential election, there really is not a clear choice based on education alone. Barack Obama's Race to the Top is not much different from the typical Republican's education policy. The only difference is that Obama draws the line at private schools vouchers while still supporting charter schools. In contrast to Republicans, the Obama administration is at least willing to fund its initiatives adequately. However, adequate funding does not placate bad policy. 

Although there has been a lot of federal meddling in public education in the past ten years, I do believe the biggest fight is still at the state and local level. It's a (really real) long shot, but it would be great if at least one of Florida's legislative chambers turned Democrat to balance things out a bit. Though Governor Scott seems to have mellowed a bit after his "listening tour," he is still a staunch supporter of  unfettered charter expansion, virtual schools, and teacher evaluations based on standardized tests. 

Regardless of the outcome of this election, it is going to be important to engage with your elected representatives on education (and other issues, of course), even if you did not vote for them. Most politicians are lawyers and small businessmen. Though there is nothing with those professions, sitting in classrooms as a student from kindergarten through high school does not make one an expert in education, and it is important that teachers and parents spend time educating them on how schools really work. I am really tired of everyone BUT teachers having such a large influence on education policy in this country. 

This movement of teacher bashing, ascribing more and more powers to unions than they ever actually had, and looking to every expert but ones who actually teach for perspective on how to improve education has to stop. We are the only ones who can do it. 

What role will you play in the legislative process during the next cycle? 

  • Follow education news.
  • Write your representatives.
  • Attend school board meetings.
  • Write your governors and federal representatives.
  • Attend town hall meetings.
  • Demand respect for your expertise and experience as a teacher. 
  • VOTE!

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