Educator enthusiasm surges as countdown to Election 2012 begins


By Amanda Litvinov, Colleen Flaherty and John Rosales

With Election Day just around the corner, educators are fired up about exercising their right to vote and taking the lead in making sure their friends and neighbors can do the same. That’s a good thing — as trusted community members, educators like you are just the civic-minded folks who can encourage other eligible voters to make casting a ballot their top priority on November 6.

Take Action ›

Take the first step in standing up for students and schools: Commit to Vote! Click here ›

Face-to-face conversations about the importance of voting and which candidates are best for public education can have enormous impact when educators are the ones delivering that message. And believe it or not, wrapping up those conversations by simply asking eligible voters to commit to going to the polls is an important step.

If you live in one of the 19 states in which voter laws have changed in the past few years (in some cases in the past few weeks), you can also play a role in educating other voters about their rights.

It’s not too late to get involved and make sure we elect those who will do right by public education and the middle class.

Here’s how your colleagues are making a difference — and you can, too.

Do what you do best—educate!

Jane Ligon grew up in the segregated South, and she remembers wishing there were something she could do to change things. Today she’s one of the longest-serving educators ever in her Tennessee county, beloved by generations for 40-plus years, and a long-time political activist.

Long-time educator and activist Jane Ligon

Ligon has participated in numerous voter registration drives, canvassed countless streets in her state, and lobbied legislators at the Tennessee statehouse as well as on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

“This is the time to get out there and organize members and community stakeholders,” she said while attending an activist training session over the summer. “We need to check our legislators’ report cards and see who our friends are and remember them at the polls.”

With public schools under attack from all sides, Ligon is particularly irked by elected leaders who would designate education support professionals as at-will employees and give school directors the power to dismiss ESPs without due process.

Remember that linking your local and state issues to the importance of elections is key in speaking with others about why elections matter. Use your National Education Association colleagues as a resource on how to talk about the issues that affect your community.

“I have a network of NEA friends I’ll cherish for the rest of my life,” she says. “We work together to fight anti-public education politicians. These are trying times, but issues of fairness, equality, and protection of workers’ rights have never been more important.”
— John Rosales

Inspired by Miss Jane? Talk to colleagues and friends about the importance of voting and what’s at stake for public education and the middle class in this election.

Help defend voter rights

Voter education is extremely important in this election: Nineteen states have passed restrictive new laws since 2011 that voting rights experts say will deprive people of color, the poor, seniors and students of their fundamental right to vote. Thanks to voter outcry, some of them have been blocked, weakened or repealed (find out more on the Brennan Center for Justice’s easy-to-read maps), but confusion can be a barrier in and of itself.

“A lot of people aren’t aware that laws like these could actually take away their right to vote,” said Ashley Anthony, who has taught elementary school in Abington, just north of Philadelphia, for the past six years. “Getting the word out to help others learn what their rights are is the first step in fighting it.”

Anthony is one of 70 educator-activists from across the country who traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend a two-day training hosted by NEA and the NAACP to help them hone their organizing skills and share best practices in engaging communities most likely to encounter barriers to exercising their right to vote.

Educator and voting rights activist Robert Gaines III

“These laws could fundamentally change the composition of the American electorate in ways not seen since the poll tax barred poor African-American citizens from voting in the post-Reconstruction Era following the Civil War,” said Becky Pringle, a Pennsylvania science teacher and NEA Secretary-Treasurer.

“If we don’t step up right now, more than 5 million eligible voters could be disenfranchised— more than enough to decide a close election.”

Her message was not lost on Robert Gaines III, a special education paraprofessional from Farmington, Mich., just outside of Detroit, who is committed to doing all he can to help voters exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot.

Gaines drove more than 10 hours each way to be part of the NEA/NAACP training. “As educators, we believe the children are the most important thing for this country, and that means our voices must be heard and we must get to the polls.”

Use these online tools to check to see if voting laws have changed in your state and help voters locate their polling place in advance of Election Day.

Commit to vote

If you were to meet future educator De’Jon Davis today, there’s a good chance she’d be wearing a pin that says in bold red letters, “Committed to Vote.”

Davis wants those around her to know she will exercise her right to vote in November — 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 (Md.) University special education major.

Future educator Sara Casey at an NEA Commit to Vote campus event

“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 NEA Student Program 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 50 states.

“It’s education funding, it’s making sure I’m not teaching in a classroom with 50 students in it, making sure that my school has a library, making sure you give me the basic resources I need to teach,” said Tjaden, a graduate of the University of Iowa.

Voter commitment efforts are more than just a reminder that the election is coming up. They also serve as another way that voters like you can show the people you’re connected with just how important it is to exercise this fundamental right.
—Colleen Flaherty

Sign our voter commitment card! Like it on Facebook and your networks will know just how important voting is to you.

Get out the vote!

Teacher Oscar Ortiz: Reaching Iowa voters

Many educators in states that allow early voting take advantage of that option to ensure that their voices will be heard in this election. (Find out if you’re eligible to vote early.)

“As a teacher who lives in a different town from where I work, it’s hard for me to make it to the polls on Election Day,” said Oscar Ortiz, a middle school instrumental music director in small town Chariton, Iowa.

Now that his vote is squared away, Ortiz is focused on getting out the vote. “Once I’ve voted, I feel an even stronger need to advocate for my candidates,” he said. “I’m geared up to make calls and knock on doors. I feel more determined than ever that I want my candidates to succeed.”

Ohio high school teacher Kelli Green, another early voter, is equally determined to get her peers to the polls.

Ohio educator and public school advocate Kelli Green

“Educators can’t afford not to vote,” said Green. “For us in Ohio, it’s pretty obvious from the last gubernatorial election that we need all our teachers voting.”

Green was referring to the election in 2010 of Governor John Kasich, who led the effort to pass a divisive law that severely weakened the collective bargaining rights of 360,000 public servants, including teachers and education support professionals. The law was defeated last year, thanks to volunteers like Green, who together collected hundreds of thousands of signatures to force a referendum.

Educators like Green are ready to switch from constantly playing defense to making the ultimate offensive play: Getting the right people into office.

Your vote is critically important in this election, and so is your voice. Here are a few more tips for getting voters to the polls:

  • Let people know that while voter turnout is expected to be high, the presidential election will be close and their votes are needed.
  • Walk voters through Election Day: Do they know the location of their polling place? (You can use this Voter Protection smartphone app to help them find out.) How will they get there, and what will they need to bring with them?

Talk, talk, and talk some more to friends, colleagues and neighbors about how important their vote is in the upcoming election. Spread the word in person and on social media.

Reader Comments

  1. I have ALWAYS been asked to present identification to vote, both in New Jersey and in Connecticut where I now reside. Why is this such an affront to people? The voting laws clearly state that you must be a citizen of the United States, and a resident of the state in which you wish to vote. How do you show this otherwise? By your good looks? Your say-so? Why is this considered “restricting” the right to vote?

    With rights come great responsibility. It’s every citizen’s responsibility to exercise their right to vote, but there are laws that make sense on the books that must be followed.

  2. Wow, I can’t express how disappointing it is to read comments that are full of name calling. Tisk, tisk. When you talk about all this voter fraud, please check the facts. Just as with the weapons of mass destruction propaganda to instill fear into the hearts of Americans, there has been no proof of voter fraud by independent investigators. Propaganda is written by those who need the masses behind them in ways to get the masses behind them, but what the masses think they are fighting for is not what the propagandists are really trying to achieve.

  3. Anyone who believes that they shouldn’t have to present a picture ID, or some other form of positive proof of citizenship is suspect to me.
    I have been banking at the same bank for 16 years (a very small bank in a very small community outside of Missoula MT) I have to present my drivers license.
    I was still smoking at the age of 55 and had to present my driver’s license in Walgreens.
    My mother, disabled at the age of 36 and unable to drive, still needed a state issued ID card when she went to her doctor’s office (she belonged to Kaiser Permanente)
    It is NOT a matter of discrimination and I’m sick and tired of hearing that it is. What it is is a way to allow voter fraud. And I notice that voter fraud raises its head even more often when conservatives seem to be edging ahead in the polls.

    My goodness – I still haven’t seen the ends that a democrat will go to make sure a person is registered to vote – and if there is some poor little person who can’t make it to vote – in these times of absentee voting – it’s not discrimination against race or nationality that is the cause, but probably more that the person wanting to vote is conservative and being completely ignored by all the righteous bleeding-heart liberals.

  4. It amazes me that so many countries are fighting for the right to vote,yet, here in the most democratic country In the world we are restricting that right by putting up barriers to vote.
    I have never had to present a picture ID at my doctors office or our local hospital. I get my prescriptions by mail and, have for many years, and have never been asked for an ID.
    Many of the people who are affected by these new laws have been voting for years and now will be disenfranchised because they have no ID and are not able to easily get one . Non drivers, invalids etc. It would make more sense to simply require a thumb print.

  5. To claim “disenfranchise” is a red herring! There are so many places that require a picture ID that it is simply a false claim and politically motivated to put out this very debatable mantra!

    I have been a polling worker for 10 years,since my retirement of 43 years in education. I often have voters walk up and hand me their photo ID, and I must tell them that it is not required or necessary. If they are registered legally, their name and address is in my book. But, I have no way of knowing that they are telling me a truthful name and address, and may be voting under an assumed or false name, without showing me a photo ID.

  6. I’m suspicious of the rushed way these requirement statutes have been legislated by one political party. Photo ID requirement might be reasonable, but it’s not fair to implement it immediately. A time frame of five to ten years toward complete compliance is necessary. There are those who have long-term established relationships with doctors, etc., and who lead everyday lives in which photo ID is not required. For some elderly women who have had name changes and no birth certificate, it’s a huge burden to secure a photo ID. I’m gratified that the courts are telling states to at the least delay implementation.

  7. On voter ID:

    You cannot go into a doctor’s office; check into a hospital; get a prescription without a picture ID. Therefore, it should not be considered a hardship or an act of discrimination to require a picture ID to vote.

    Common sense should come into play here instead of hysterics from persons trying to stir the pot.

    1. You forget that the poor do not have relationships with doctors, do not go to the hospital unless the emergency room, and do not get prescriptions. The middle and upper class do not know how these people struggle to survive. Social workers and teachers could tell you more about the sad state of many people’s lives. That being said, those who struggle should still have the opportunity to vote for those they believe will serve their needs best. And don’t think they are all democrats; plenty of poor are deeply religious and vote conservatively.

    2. Actually, none of the statements made in your post are true. I’ve never, not even once, had to present a picture ID to pick up a prescription or go to a doctor’s office. And the requirement to present a picture ID truly is a hardship, despite your assertions to the contrary, particularly since in some state’s it has to be a state issued ID or driver’s license. When I was a college student, it would have been next to IMPOSSIBLE to get either one of those. I did not have a copy of my birth certificate, which my parents had lost, and spending the money to get another copy as well as the money for the ID was more than I could possibly afforded without going without food for several days. As a result, I simply didn’t vote. Indeed, to get my driver’s license renewed after I had accidentally let it expire recently was tremendously difficult since I no longer reside in the state in which I was born. To ask this of citizens who were in a similar plight to me is discriminatory and an unnecessary hardship. I would think that, considering we have one of the lower voter turnouts compare to many countries, we should be doing everything we can to make voting less, not more, onerous.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *