With primary election season upon us, 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 voting their top priority.
Below you’ll find the top 10 trends from this school year that demonstrate how elections matter for educators, communities and, most importantly, our students.
1. The Kansas Supreme Court ordered the state to confront the inequality of its public school funding.
When policymakers and advocates refer to education as “a civil-rights issue,” fiscal equity is often framed as a piece of that equation. And in a landmark ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court has ordered the state to address significant shortfalls in how its public schools are funded, citing low academic achievement by black, Hispanic, and low-income students as among the deciding factors.
2. The Trump administration repeatedly lied about separating families at the border
Parents with their children surrendering themselves at the border, fleeing from violence and persecution in their home country—to begin the legal procedure to request asylum—are arrested. Border patrol officers take children from the arms of their parents, sometimes separating screaming toddlers from screaming mothers.
Throughout these horrendous reports, the Trump administration has lied about what is happening and why.
3. #RedforEd prompts educators to run… for office!
This is the year of #RedforEd, a movement that teachers and other school professionals are driving for the support that students, educators, and public schools deserve. The strength of that movement from Arizona to West Virginia has compelled an unprecedented number of NEA members to run for elected office. In fact, more educators are running this year than in the past 20 years.
They’re especially motivated to run in states where politicians with the wrong priorities have starved public schools year after year and ignored what’s best for students. In Kentucky and Oklahoma, for instance, more than 100 teachers have filed to run for state office.
4. The Governors of Kentucky and Oklahoma attacked educators
“I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” Bevin said. “I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”
“Teachers want more,” Fallin told CBS News on Tuesday, referring to teachers rallying for higher teacher and support staff raises, as well as increased funding for education.
“But it’s like kind of having a teenage kid that wants a better car.”
5. VA Gov Northam signed a budget that expanded Medicaid and boosted funding and educator pay
The federal government offered states money to fund Medicaid expansion starting in 2014, but until now, Virginia declined to accept the funds. That has placed tremendous strain on the state government to cover health services. Education funding suffered as a result, both in terms of per-pupil funding and educator pay.
Accepting federal funding for Medicaid freed up state dollars, allowing legislators to add more than $530 million to K-12 general funds and $131 million for a 3 percent pay raise for state-supported educator positions.
6. Anti-LGBT bills cropped up across the country
This year’s legislative session saw a wave of anti-transgender state bills all across the country. Ten states introduced 21 anti-transgender bills, many of which have been defeated or are pending final votes. In November’s general election, Massachusetts voters will have the power to strike down an anti-transgender ballot initiative. Overall, these bills and ballot measures limit people from accessing health care and updating identity documents, as well as create special exemptions that discriminate against the LGBTQ community. Despite these efforts, the fight for equality remains strong.
7. Educator-activists helped dislodge critical federal funding for rural schools
Congress released funds, held up for years, that support public schools in rural communities.
Federal lawmakers failed to reauthorize funding for the Secure Rural Schools Act (SRS) in 2015, leaving more than 4,400 rural schools that are on or near federally protected lands short on critical funding.
SRS was introduced in 2000 to replace taxes and timber sales revenue. But funding for the program expired in December 2015, and the last payments were delivered in March 2016.
That’s why thousands of educators reached out to members of Congress to ask them to take action to reinstate SRS payments.
8. Governor Wolf slashed standardized testing in Pennsylvania
Gov. Wolf reduced the length of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) by an average of 20 percent in grades 3 through 8, in an effort to preserve critical instruction time.
For more than a decade, Pennsylvania educators and parents have been speaking up about the impact that high-stakes testing has on students. Their concerns centered on the amount of instruction time lost to preparing for and administering standardized tests, and the spike in stress and anxiety that many students experience as a result.
9. The White House and others floated dangerous proposals to arm educators
Only two weeks after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and educators were murdered, Florida lawmakers rejected a ban on assault rifles and decided instead to heed President Trump’s call to put even more weapons in our schools. A bill is moving through the state legislature that would train teachers to carry guns. It allocates $67 million to create so-called “school marshalls,” staff trained to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds.
The bill would put 10 armed educators in every school, roughly 37,000 statewide.
For the students, educators, and parents still reeling from the massacre in Parkland (just the latest in a rash of school shootings that has spread across the U.S.), the notion that combating gun violence in schools requires even more guns being brought into schools is both ludicrous and dangerous.
10. Governors lined up to support Janus, the landmark anti-worker Supreme Court case
At issue is Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that, contrary to long-standing precedent, would establish non-union members who share in the wages, benefits, and protections which have been negotiated in a collectively bargained contract are not required to pay their fair share for the cost of those negotiations.
Janus is being orchestrated by the legal arm of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation as part of a multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort to take away the freedom of, and opportunity for working people to join together in strong unions to speak up for themselves, their families and their communities. The foundation, which has close ties to the Koch brothers, has four “Koch associates” on its litigation team.
In addition to the corporate CEOs and billionaires funding the case, there are candidates running for governor this November who share the Kochs’ anti-worker philosophy and who want to rig the rules against everyday working people.