by Colleen Flaherty
In this year’s election, future educators are getting politically involved to fight for issues that are most important to them—and that begins with a commitment to cast a ballot.
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Special education major De’Jon Davis said there’s no question she will exercise her right to vote—and she’ll do so with her future students in mind. “Too often, special needs children are overlooked, and it’s about time that they get the support they deserve,” said the Bowie State University senior.
“Same goes for early childhood education. Those are crucial years in a child’s development, and we need a president who understands that.”
The teachers of tomorrow have displayed the depth of their concern about what this election means for the future of their profession at a series of Commit to Vote events hosted by the Student Program of the National Education Association on campuses around the country.
“When I talk to these students about why they’re voting, it comes down to education,” says David Tjaden, chair of the NEA Student Program, an organization of more than 60,000 students in education programs on more than 1,100 campuses across all fifty states.
“It’s education funding, it’s making sure I’m not teaching in a classroom with fifty students in it, making sure that my school has a library, making sure you give me the basic resources I need to teach. Let me do what I love.”
Tjaden said the response and hard work of student volunteers has been overwhelming. With states fighting over education issues like school funding, charter schools, and the very existence of teachers unions, teachers in training are fighting harder than ever for the future of public education.
“I think our students are really grasping the idea that politics plays such a crucial role in their lives as future educators, and whether they’re Republican, Democrat, Independent, whatever they are, they’re not concerned about partisan politics nearly as much as understanding the issues and important for them as educators and most importantly, they want to know what policies will affect the students they’ll be teaching someday,” said Tjaden.
The next challenge for the NEA Student Organization will be pushing these policies forward after the election and holding the newly elected and reelected accountable for their campaign promises.
“We’re going to continue to work as students and as future teachers to bring these politicians together, to understand that public education isn’t a partisan issue. We all need to be working together to make sure that every single student and every single school has the funding and the ability to succeed at the highest level,” said Tjaden.
“We don’t just end on November sixth with the election. That’s when the work starts.”