Elections, From a Perspective of Public School Employees
Public school employees become nervous around election time. Politicians create legislation that improves or worsens their professional lives, bank accounts and retirement plans. With America's current education reform movement, voters may list education toward the top of their concerns. Candidates and incumbents have presented their records and plans concerning public education, all leading up to November 2. Public school employees have unique perspectives on voting for education. Voters may find voting for education important, but not understand the factors as public school employees can.
In the months leading up to election, teachers and administrators attempt to untangle the mess that politicians create. Public school workers sit in lounges or huddled groups after school to consider where politicians stand in regards to the disastrous NCLB Act and slightly improved Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization (Blueprint for Reform). These large acts determine the role of standardized testing as well as national standards, funding and curriculum changes in public schools. Additionally, like other employees, teachers take changes to their retirement seriously. Finally, many states have particular situations within their public school system, shaping voters' ideas, such as Illinois, which has controversially borrowed against teacher retirement systems. (Outside of the Chicago area, that is. Chicago teachers have a different retirement system than the rest of Illinois teachers. This should not be surprising, as all Chicago unions have heavy voting power. Ridiculous borrowing from such powerful constituents' retirement funds is an unpopular move). All of these small nuances, small aspects, shape the way public school employees work, think about the election and eventually, teach students. It may behoove average voters to look at voting from public school employees' perspectives.
Aside from the issues, other factors shape public school employees' votes. Teacher unions play a role as advertising does, especially when unions send out their typical letter of endorsements. Teachers' involvement with their unions, favorable or negative, affects if they will read the letter or not. Teachers' beliefs in regard to praying in public schools, tenure and merit pay influence their allegiance to candidates too.
Politicians unfortunately service educators and those casting votes in regard to education every other November. Education is a comfy, loving topic. All politicians support education and they all want to improve our schools. The challenge is finding those who will actually do so, and not just provide excuses and more lip service in two years. I encourage voters to consider the important role education plays in bettering lives and society, investigate politicians' follow-through concerning education, and then vote. Hopefully, voters have an overall idea of what shapes pubic school workers' votes. It is up to each of us to vote for the strongest woman or man in support of education.
Photo Credit: Theresa Thompson