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Vote Like Education Depends on It
The midterm elections are rapidly approaching, as noted by the number of political ads flooding our televisions and mailboxes. This year, education is a priority topic on the ballot as policy makers continue responding to the disruption from the pandemic. Education has found itself smack dab in the middle of the culture wars, and the work we do to support students has found its way deep in the policy conversations and recommendations being put forth at the local, state, and federal levels. Some are looking to prioritize equitable funding streams for public education, expand access to comprehensive school mental health services, improve diversity and inclusion, promote antidiscrimination policies, and establish "grow your own" opportunities to address the educator shortage. Others are prioritizing "parents' rights" in education over all else, giving parents the ability to formally review and approve or reject curriculum (academic and social-emotional learning), district learning materials including library collections, teachers' classroom materials, and whether their student is allowed to access needed mental health and learning supports. There is also a push to expand voucher and scholarship programs to pay for private schooling and implement policies that negatively affect LGBTQ+ students (e.g., transgender sports participation, displaying Pride flags and other symbols of support, and use of preferred pronouns and names, to name a few).
In my Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, public education is literally on the ballot as the candidates for governor have very different funding plans for our students. One candidate is proposing to slash $12.75 billion in education funding; according to the Pennsylvania State Education Association, this would result in 49% of jobs lost in public schools. Student to teacher ratios are also predicted to double if such drastic funding cuts occurred in my state, and the impact on student to school mental health personnel ratios is unimaginable. On the other side, a candidate proposes to fully fund our public schools, especially schools that have been chronically underfunded. That candidate prioritizes having at least one mental health professional in every school in the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania is just one example of education proposals that differ drastically from a funding standpoint. It is important as voters to educate ourselves about the policy proposals that candidates offer at all levels of government, so we are informed on which candidates most align with what we know as educational best practice.
Voting matters, and as a woman, mother, sister, and daughter, I have made a point to vote in every election (primary and general), since I was 18 years old because many women fought hard to earn me the right to cast my vote and make my voice heard. I urge all of you to honor those that fought for your freedoms as well and continue to fight to preserve this democracy by voting on Tuesday November 8. Vote as if education depends on it because it does, this year more than ever.
You can find your polling location, check your voter registration status, see a sample ballot, and get registered to vote at: www.vote.org. If you are not already registered to vote, be sure to do so as soon as possible! Make voting a part of your lifestyle and a part of your advocacy, and encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to do the same.
I leave you with the words of wisdom from a leader of the Women's Suffrage Movement that sacrificed much to establish a voice for women. These words not only apply to women, but all Americans: Everybody counts in applying democracy. And there will never be a true democracy until every responsible and law-abiding adult in it, without regard to race, sex, color, or creed has his or her own inalienable and unpurchasable voice in government. - Carrie Chapman Catt