Educators look past elections, remind elected officials to put students before politics

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by Félix Pérez

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Two days after a historic election that sent shock waves through state legislatures, governors’ ranks and Congress, educators are reminding elected officials from both parties that the needs of students and their families must come before partisan advantage.

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Robert Gaines III

Tens of thousands of teachers and education support professionals were involved in elections at the local and state levels — canvassing neighborhoods, volunteering at phone banks, sharing information on social media, attending rallies, and talking with their coworkers and friends about what is at stake. Regardless of the negative election outcomes, however, educators are setting politics aside and continuing what they’ve always done — preparing lesson plans, grading exams, reviewing homework, and making sure students have the best opportunity possible to succeed.

“The results from election night were not what I had hoped for, but they have not diminished my commitment to my students and public education,” said Michigan education support professional Robert Gaines III. “I will continue to roll up my sleeves every day to advocate for what my students need to succeed.”

The number of pro-public candidates who lost was significant, but there were some noteworthy wins.

 

 

  • U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire won a second term. Shaheen, a former educator, opposes evaluating teachers based largely on standardized test scores and supports increasing pay for teachers and education professionals.
  • Gary Peters defeated a pro-voucher candidate to become Michigan’s newest U.S. senator. Peters, the son of a teacher, supports involving teachers in designing the procedures used to evaluate them.
  • In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper, who worked closely with educators to add nearly $500 million to K-12 funding during the economic downturn, was re-elected.
  • New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan was re-elected to a second term. Hassan worked across party lines to maintain funding for K-12 education and restore funding for higher education, making it possible to freeze in-state tuition at the university system and reduce tuition at community colleges.
  • Pennsylvanians voted overwhelmingly for a fresh start by electing Tom Wolf governor. Wolf has pledged to restore education funding after nearly $1 billion in public school funding cuts, nearly 20,000 lost education jobs and legislative proposals for private school tuition vouchers.
  • Hawaii state Sen. David Ige won the race to become the state’s governor. “I believe that those closest to the children should be making the decisions about how funds should be spent, what the curriculum should look like and what’s the best way to help our students,” said Ige.
  • California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson came out on top in a closely contested race. A former educator, Torlakson is a vocal opponent of a recent state court decision that strips teachers of long-standing basic job rights, including due process in dismissals. Torlakson called the case, on appeal, an attack on teachers.

Putting the election into perspective, Lily Eskelsen García, former Utah Teacher of the Year and National Education Association president, said:

Election Day 2014 has come and gone, but the important work of educators across the country remains ahead — to prepare students with the right skills to succeed in a 21st century economy. Students woke up this morning still deserving the best our nation can offer them. Regardless of the outcomes . . . , every student still needs a great public school to fulfill his or her greatest dreams.

Florida teacher Lucia Baez was unhappy with how her state’s race for governor turned out, but she said it will not distract her from doing what she loves — advocating for her students. “Educators are not the type of people to back down when it comes to what is best for students. Regardless of which party came out ahead, we will do what is best for students. Their future requires we all work together.”

Reader Comments

  1. The reason why the elections results were negative is because the American people have voted those into office that constantly attack public education and the educators. I would like nothing more than to get on with what is important, but our elected officials are making it harder and harder to do so.

  2. Oh where to begin? First, teachers above anyone else must demonstrate mastery of the English language. And this article starts out showing the writer hasn’t: “Two days after a historic election “. Um, should be “AN historic election.” Check your grammar.

    Later, we read “Regardless of the negative election outcomes…” Why negative? Is it negative just because the NEA, liberals, and their ilk, didn’t get their way? When the voters speak, the outcomes are always positive. That’s what a democracy and representative republic are all about: the voters speak, and what we saw here was the voters won. Their vote was cast aside by judges. It was corrupted by fixed voting machines, illegal voting, or intimidation by some liberal groups.

    I’ve been saying it for 30+ years, and I know the NEA membership will never agree, but maybe it’s time for educators and their minions to open an ear, start listening to us conservatives and realize that Democrats and the NEA leadership DON’T have all the answers.

    1. Really Martin? And you have how many years of teaching experience? As a software engineer with a Master’s degree and adjunct instructor at a technical college with a wife who is a teacher of some 22 years, I have a fairly good grasp of education, at least higher ed. When a governor (or anyone) makes a unilateral statement condemning teachers as “lazy”, “greedy”, “part time workers”, etc. when he himself didn’t even manage to graduate from college, perhaps it is time to question why someone with no education experience and no credentials should be making decisions affecting students of all ages. So I tell you what? You can go ahead and dictate how I should run my classroom as long as I can dictate how you do you job. Fair enough? I have ho idea what type of non technical job you have (yes I am making an assumption, but then hell – you have too) but I bet even though I’ve never done it before I could do it far better than you. After all, that’s what you think of teachers so fair is fair. Or maybe you’d like to take a crack at teaching my wife’s class for a day with 2 emotionally disturbed children and a third who is constantly shifted from home to home because she has no permanent residence. You could have a crack at applying some of that good ol conservative genius (and money) at feeding the hungry kids in her class and providing gloves and coats for those who come in without them. Of course, my wife would rightfully tell you to get the hell out of her class because you have no clue. On that note, why don’t you just STFU and find a conservative bastion to vent your infantile comments?

    2. “I’ve been saying it for 30+ years, and I know the NEA membership will never agree, but maybe it’s time for educators and their minions to open an ear, start listening to us conservatives and realize that Democrats and the NEA leadership DON’T have all the answers.”

      And this is exactly what’s wrong with K-12 education in the United States today. This is NOT a Democrat or Republican issue. At some point, legislators are going to have to move over and let the education professionals guide us to a better educational system for all kids.

      1. Rochelle, it’s time for the NEA to stop supporting Democrats every election cycle regardless of who is running. As a 30 year veteran of teaching students with behavioral disorders–mostly at Middle School–I have supported the NEA but have always resented sending my dues to the Democratic party. The US Department of Education is a top-heavy bureaucratic nightmare that ought to be eliminated. Education has gone downhill since it’s inception under jimmy Carter. The money sent there could be much better utilized in individual states and would help keep national politics out of the classroom.

  3. Why do you say election results were ‘disappointing’? I feel they were the opposite. Hopefully now our country can get on with what’s most important, which includes our students and education.

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