Why is this election important? Why should education voters go to the polls?
Here are a few reasons:
Teachers are under attack like never before. The most recent of several examples comes from a U.S. Senator who said single women who are pregnant or dating, and gays and lesbians should be barred from teaching. There’s ‘Waiting for Superman,’ which pans teachers’ right to due process, that is, the right not to be dismissed without reason, and lionizes charter schools (even though less than one out of five outperform public schools) while painting public schools as a disaster. And then there is Education Nation, the weeklong series of programming by NBC billed as an ‘informed and enlightened’ national conversation on improving public education. Instead, the network gave a megaphone to celebrities and billionaires with no expertise in education while providing scant airtime to the voices of parents and families and, most distressing, the perspectives of the professionals in our classrooms.
Congress will rewrite No Child Left Behind next year. The men and women elected to the U.S. Senate and House will determine what changes will be made to the law. Among the issues at play are paying teachers based on student test scores (even though teachers have no control over whether a student is poor, hungry or has unaddressed medical problems that impede learning), the use of test results to punish and stigmatize students, teachers and schools, and one-size-fits-all mandates.
Retirement security is under assault. Educators are paid less than private sector employees with comparable educations and experience, and have agreed to forego salary increases for years in exchange for a decent standard of living when we retire. Yet candidates in state after state are scapegoating teachers, police officers, firefighters, emergency workers and other public service workers for budget deficits.
Politicians want to privatize Social Security and raise the retirement age. One U.S. Senate candidate called Social Security ‘unconstitutional.’ Another likened it to a ‘Ponzi’ scheme. While yet a third wants to raise the retirement age to 70. Social Security lifts 20 million people out of poverty, and survivors’ benefits are an irreplaceable part of our children’s safety net. Diverting Social Security funds to private accounts will expose the retirement security of millions of Americans to the volatility of the stock market.
Republican leaders vow to cut education funding by 20 percent. In their recently released economic plan, ‘A Pledge to America,’ Republican leaders promise to cut education funding by 20 percent, which would drop 200,000 children from Head Start and cut financial aid for 8 million college students.
Education voters, like all voters, are concerned about the economy and jobs. Education voters understand that the single largest determinant of America’s success is whether we’re offering our children the best education possible.
It’s time to stand up to those special interests that tear down public schools and demonize teachers who, despite being subjected to relentless criticism and working under tremendous pressure, put in 12 hour days, work weekends, and spend thousands of dollars of their own money on student supplies.
We can change this conversation. We can answer the elites who say they know our kids better than we do, who would like nothing better than to silence our voice.
Talk to your coworkers, friends and family î º beginning now and until election day. Volunteer at your local phone bank or neighborhood canvass. Attend a rally. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper in support of pro-public education candidates. Share your ideas with us on how you’re getting involved. Sign up to volunteer at Education Votes and recommend the site to others. We can turn the election around one voter at a time.