by Amanda Litvinov, Felix Perez and Brian Washington/photo courtesy of Staci Maiers and the Ohio Education Association
Few would argue against the notion that public education is the greatest tool we have to maintaining a middle class. Every day in schools across the country, hard working educators give children the skills they need to become successful learners, agile problem solvers, and creative thinkers, preparing them not only to enter the workforce but to think and act as citizens.
Educators’ priorities are the very things that strengthen the middle class in the long-term. Here’s why you have a key role to play in setting the stage for the rebuilding of America in this crucial election year:
You know that collective action can move mountains, and that your participation is essential.
On top of creating dynamic lessons, communicating with parents, keeping buildings safe and clean, and the countless other things you do on behalf of your students, you took to the streets in 2011 to protest unjust legislation, collect signatures, campaign for candidates who will work for public education—whatever was required. And your hard work paid off:
- OHIO: In a stunning victory, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents delivered a stinging rebuke of the nation’s first-ever statewide voter referendum on the right of public employees to collectively bargain. Educators were among the leaders of months of on-the-ground work gathering more than 1 million signatures, grassroots organizing, and educating voters neighborhood by neighborhood. The law would have stripped educators, fire fighters, police officers, nurses, and other workers of one of the most valuable tools they have to advocate for their communities.
- MAINE: Members of the Maine Education Association and like-minded citizens took a strong stand to protect voter rights in their state. After the Republican-controlled statehouse passed legislation that would end residents’ right to register and vote on Election Day, thousands of MEA members collected more than the 50,000 signatures required to call a citizen’s veto. Voters passed the resulting ballot initiative, and saved same-day registration, which has proven to boost voter participation.
- NEW HAMPSHIRE: It was a historic moment—and a surprise—when the New Hampshire House of Representatives failed to override Governor Lynch’s veto of the so-called “Right to Work” Bill, which would have prevented local associations from collecting agency fees from non-union members who receive full benefits of the union negotiated contract.
- IOWA: Iowa educators played a leading role in electing state senate candidate Liz Mathis, thereby preserving Democrats’ narrow control over the state senate and keeping a last line of defense against extremist legislation from the state house and governor that threatens public sector bargaining rights and universal preschool.
The work is far from over—in fact, things will only heat up in 2012, which makes your participation all the more important. Just ask Heather DuBois Bourenane, a Sun Prairie, Wisconsin teacher turned activist. She used to describe herself thusly: mom, teacher, PTA member, and grad student. But after Governor Scott Walker’s power grab, she is now also an education activist, blogger, grassroots organizer, and recall effort coordinator. “I’m just a regular person who was shaken into action over the past year,” says Bourenane.