Monday, October 17, 2016

Your Vote Impacts Education: Make it a Good One

This election cycle has been anything but ordinary. With all the noisy chatter, partisanship, and rhetoric, there’s one topic that’s been noticeably quiet: EDUCATION. President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015 which empowers states and school districts to develop their own strategies for improving student performance and ensuring their success in the 21st century.

That’s Great! Yet there's not much discussion from our presidential candidates concerning the current state of education or solutions to improve it.

Nevertheless, education is actually the responsibility of state government. In fact, approximately 90% of school funding comes from the state and local level. Therefore, we, the public, need to ensure that those we elect have the best interest in mind for students, teachers, and schools. The unfortunate reality is those of us who are raising children only care about our own kids, not all kids. We move to certain communities to avoid having our children attend certain schools, or we may live in a particular neighborhood but send our children to a school outside of the neighborhood. Thus, our elected officials have little consequence to address education policy, education equity, or school improvement. We take it upon ourselves to enroll our children in charter schools, private schools, or we may even home-school simply to avoid traditional public schools.

Honestly, I’m guilty of this. I, like most parents, want my children to receive the best, quality education. It never dawned on me to contact my elected officials to discuss K-12 education. I was a traditional public school teacher, and I chose to send my son to a charter school instead of sending him to a similar Title I school. In fact, I’m already thinking of the secondary schools that I would like for him to attend once he finishes elementary. Fortunately, the districts in my area have strong special interest programs so he may become a traditional public school student once he gets to the secondary level. Yet, with the long waiting lists for charter schools and the expense of private schools many parents have no other option but to send their children to traditional public schools.

Approximately, ninety percent of students will attend and graduate from a traditional public school. Consequently, we’re all affected by public education whether our children attend or not. As homeowners, our property values are linked to the quality of education in our schools. The high school graduation and college matriculation rate directly correlate to the economic prosperity and viability of the individual, neighborhood, city, state, and nation. We’re only as strong as those we educate, and one’s zip code truly should not be the determining factor in your educational attainment.

As a result, it’s incumbent upon us to vote wisely. People are none too thrilled about our presidential candidates. I get it. Someone recently told me that they were going to sit this election out. I advised them…actually, it was more so pleading like James Brown: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE vote for your local and state representatives. VOTE THE WHOLE BALLOT! Leave no office unchecked. Those down ballot races matter so much more because the decisions that are made affect you immediately. Frankly, you are more likely to have an incumbent who will serve longer than the 4 to 8 years that our next president will serve. 

ESSA will be implemented during the 2017-2018 school year. In addition, school funding, assessments, accountability, equity, school choice, quality early childhood programs, and student achievement are some of the big education issues that will be addressed this upcoming session. The primary role of state legislatures is to determine budget priorities, allocate funds towards education, and set statewide educational policies. How can we compete globally if our children are underperforming in reading, math, and science in comparison to their peers internationally? Although the high school graduation rate is increasing, more students require remediation courses prior to taking freshmen level classes in college. Fifty percent of those who do enter college do not complete their degree within the recommended 4 to 6 years.

November 8th will be a turning point for our nation. Some races are extremely close and your vote is crucial. We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines and watch another generation go through school yet leave uneducated. When you vote, please vote the whole ballot, and vote for those candidates who are committed to standing up for our children, teachers, and schools.
Research your current elected officials or their opponents, and learn more about education policy and proposed legislative agendas. Check out these sites below and register for their newsletters to stay abreast of issues that matter to you:

U.S. Department of Education
Education Votes
National Education Agency

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