By Barbara Moreno
“Teachers need the vote in order to have more schools and better schools…”
“Teachers need the vote in order to protect the children of their district from the vicious interests that constantly exploit them.”
Any of this sound familiar? Nearly 100 years after these words were printed, teachers are still fighting to have their voices heard.
Back then, educators’ voices were instrumental in the push for women’s suffrage*, called to action by arguments like the one in this 1915 flyer:
So many of the issues educators faced then are still challenging the education profession today, but educators, then and now, deeply care about the political issues that affect their students. They know that if they don’t have their rights protected, neither will their students.
The 99-year anniversary of the 19th amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote (though the right didn’t extend to women of color until decades later) reminds us that there is a lot at stake for the education world during the 2020 election, and we’ve come up with our own list of reasons why educators need to use the vote they worked so hard to gain.
- Betsy DeVos – Do we even need to continue this list after mentioning her? Her lack of experience in public education, strong support for vouchers and online schooling, and attacks on our students’ rights and education funding make DeVos public enemy number one for educators. Our students deserve a Secretary of Education who wants to invest in their future not line her pockets.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness – If educators and other public servants make 10 years’ worth of qualified monthly payments on their federal student loans, they can receive up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness. But that’s not what is happening, because the program is broken. Fewer than 1 percent of eligible public servants who apply actually receive the loan forgiveness they were promised. Educators deserve a government that fulfills their promises to public servants everywhere.
- Gun Violence Prevention – NEA members believe schools should be safe places for learning. They reject the idea of arming teachers and other educators and oppose using federal funds for that purpose. NEA members want a government that will expand mental health care in schools and research gun violence as a public health issue.
- Education Funding – All our students deserve access to a high-quality education, but funding for public education keeps decreasing. Public schools received $3.7 billion, or 19 percent, less for Title I students during the 2017-18 school year than they did in 2010. The federal share of IDEA funding is now less than 14 percent, far short of the 40 percent Congress promised to provide. Educators need a Congress that is willing to put students, and their right to a quality education regardless of zip code, first.
- Retirement Security – The Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces the Social Security benefits of people who work in jobs regardless of whether they are covered by Social Security—for example, educators who take part-time jobs to make ends meet. Most of the people hurt by the GPO and WEP are public servants (read: educators), who should be rewarded with retirement security, after all their years of public service.
- Workers’ Rights – All public education employees deserve the right to negotiate a fair contract. Bargaining ensures that career education employees have a respected voice in the workplace and are involved in both identifying and solving school and classroom issues, which in turn promotes student learning. After the blow the Janus Supreme Court case dealt unions last year, we need a government that respects educators’ right to bargain.
- Voting Rights – The landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 banned discriminatory practices and extended voting protections to millions of racial, ethnic, and language minority citizens. In 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. As efforts to suppress the vote continue—for example, through measures to deter student voting or limit absentee ballots—the need for protecting the vote persists.
We need your educator voice to be heard in the 2020 election. We know you’ll make the right decisions for educators and students everywhere. Take a moment to check your voter registration.
If you’re already registered, we ask you to register three of your friends and amplify your impact in 2020. Let’s make our educator voices heard!