At this time of year, it becomes even more critical that we carefully consider the candidates running for public office – from the school board level to the gubernatorial races to the US Senate and House seats – and choose those that truly stand for public education. But, we wonder whether such candidates exist.
We see candidates running for school board seats in the Indianapolis Public School system who have raised as much as $65,000 for their campaigns and wonder where their money is coming from. We see governors taking a stand for Common Core, stripping public education funding at historic rates, and then doing a complete 180o as polls show the public is unhappy with their records and statements about public education.
In our own state of Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett is all but out of the governor’s mansion, and we all know that Tom Wolf is the better choice. (At this point, it seems as though almost anyone would be the better choice.) Wolf is endorsed by PSEA and teachers certainly are behind him. Our hope, though, is that he stays true to his word about using a 5% severance tax to help fund education and holding charter and cyber schools more accountable. He also came out against the corporate takeover of schools in York City, PA, but there have been some reports that have surfaced about Wolf’s ties to some of the stakeholders in that district who are pro-charter. At the very least, political watchdogs and the citizens of PA need to keep a close eye on Wolf after he wins the election.
Yes, politics is a dirty game. And, we know that teachers can’t easily stop working in the classroom to run for office and make the changes we’d all like to see. But, wouldn’t that be nice? We look to the kindergarten teacher running for Congress and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who may be running against Rahm Emanuel for Mayor of Chicago, for inspiration. We see former teachers running for school board seats, too. These definitely are steps in the right direction.
So, what can teachers do on a more practical level? Well, teachers (and anyone else who wishes to visit) should regularly check the Education Votes site from NEA. While NEA certainly isn’t perfect, and teachers often find themselves disagreeing with various NEA presidents from time to time, they do feature teachers from around the country explaining which candidates they support and the challenges they face in their own section of the public education world.
We also can pay more attention to the candidate debates and listen very carefully to the words (read: spin) candidates put out in their ads. As with anything else, being informed is half the battle. Take a few minutes to read about the candidates, to listen to the debates, and to talk with colleagues and your local union leaders to see which way the candidates are leaning in the battles over charter vs. public schools, testing, education reform, pension reform, and everything else that affects teachers as professionals.
You may not be able to change the leadership within your district (unless you quit and run for a school board seat), but you can vote. And, you can talk with your neighbors, friends, family, and other community members about the issues that affect you, your classroom, and your students every day. It seems the only sure way to win the fight for public education is to work from the top down. Vote for candidates who seem like supporters of public education, and then hold them accountable after the election. Our kids are depending on us.