To support public schools, vote all the way down the ballot

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By Amanda Litvinov / photo by justgrimes

It’s Election Day!

Public school advocates around the country are working to elect pro-public education candidates at the state and local level. The stakes are especially high in New Jersey and Virginia, the only two states with gubernatorial elections this year.

To make sure that our voices are heard and our votes have maximum impact, public school advocates must vote in every election, and they must vote all the way down the ballot. After all, elected officials at every level—local, state, and federal—shape how our schools operate and determine the resources they’ll have to meet the needs of all students.

Below we’ve outlined how various state and local positions can affect public education. Take a look, and if you have a race today in your area, find your polling location and head to the polls! Students are counting on us to elect leaders who support public schools.

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Under Gov. McCrory, North Carolina lost 3,000 teaching assistants; expanded vouchers; and spent less per student than in 2007. Voters replaced him with pro-public education Gov. Roy Cooper in the 2016 election.

GOVERNOR

A governor can propose laws to help students and schools, or block potentially damaging legislation. But a governor who doesn’t value public education can push an agenda that strips our resources and punishes struggling schools. He or she can also:

• Change education policies and programs and create new ones via executive orders, executive budgets, and legislative proposals.

• Veto bills, or sign them into law, and appoint state officers (in some states that includes the attorney general and superintendent of instruction).

• Introduce public understanding of critical education issues such as vouchers, school privatization and education spending, and can play defense for schools if legislators pass potentially damaging legislation.

 

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, explained his vote on House Bill 2326 Wednesday morning, March 25, 2015. The bill would have restricted the number of issues K-12 public school boards and employees could negotiate in annual contract talks. Hensley indicated the bill as amended by the Senate would have stripped out fact-finding from the negotiations process. “It is dictating to local school districts that they will now no longer be able to negotiate the non-renewable contracts within their negotiations,” Hensley said. The bill failed 13-27. (AP Photo/ Topeka Capital-Journal, Thad Allton)
Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley–an educator and KNEA member–has fought for public schools in 40 legislative sessions.

STATE LEGISLATOR

When a majority of a state’s legislators are not friends of public education, our good education goals are thrown off course and we spend most of our time on the defensive. Three things to know about state legislators:

• They write and vote on laws affecting every aspect of public schools—from funding to standardized testing to educators’ rights to organize and advocate for students.

• Their votes are supposed to be informed by constituents, not special interest groups from outside the state, like the extremist American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

• A good legislator is accessible to educators and parents.

 

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Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Gov. Matt Bevin for making cuts to the state university system without the approval of the general assembly. The State Supreme Court sided with Beshear.

STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL

“The people’s lawyer” can help protect taxpayers’ investments in public education. State attorneys general:

• Advise state legislatures and agencies, including a state’s Department of Education, Board of Education, and institutions of higher education.

• Investigate for-profit colleges that engage in predatory practices or inflate job placement rates.

• Assemble task forces to examine school safety, bullying, and the overuse of standardized tests.

 

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The Nashville school board adopted standards of transparency and accountability for charter schools.

SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER

Well-functioning school boards make decisions on what’s best for students based on research and input from educators and the community. They are generally responsible for:

• Decisions about day-to-day operations of a school district, including hiring and firing of administrators.

• Key budget decisions such as setting salaries and purchasing textbooks and technology.

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