By Scott McGilvray
NEA New Hampshire President
This fall, Americans across the country will elect 36 governors, 6,048 state legislators, 31 state attorneys general, and 468 members of the U.S. Congress. Early and absentee voting has already started in several states; many states will commence early and absentee voting this week. As educators, we are keenly aware that we are electing our bosses – officials who influence what happens in our schools and classrooms. Midterm elections are very important for education voters, but far too many of us sit them out, waiting instead to vote in Presidential elections, or in local contests regarding our contracts.
Because it’s not a presidential election year, many of our members may choose to stay home on November 4. Nothing could be more dangerous and have a more profound negative impact on our students, families and profession than sitting out these midterm elections. The last time we did that, Bill O’Brien and his brand of ALEC-inspired Tea Party politics swept into power in Concord.
Educating our students is the most important investment our society can make in our future. We need to elect leaders who will make public education a priority.
When education voters do not participate in elections, we get leaders in the halls of power who do not value public education or public educators. Across the country since 2010, states have balanced budgets on the backs of our students. Billions have been cut from state education budgets; in fact, state education budgets are now worse off than they were during the recession.
No where is this more true than here in New Hampshire. In 2010, when Bill O’Brien and his ALEC-aligned Tea Party brand of politics swept into power in Concord, 6,300 NEA New Hampshire members stayed away from the polls and did not vote. In 2012 the number of NEA-NH members who did not vote dropped to 1,700 and Maggie Hassan, Carol Shea Porter, Annie Kuster and a pro-education New Hampshire House of Representatives were elected. Your vote matters and these results prove it. Stay at home and we, our families and our students lose. It’s that simple.
So we find ourselves on the eve of another midterm election, and we cannot repeat the turnout of 2010, we cannot allow the politics of division, scarcity and fear prevail. We read the repugnant comments of Representative Vaillancourt who believes that a candidate needs to be attractive to get into office and we ask how does he keep getting elected? Simple; voters like us stay home.
Bill O’Brien and his supporters take away Evergreen, add two years to our probationary period, vote to repeal public kindergarten, eliminate compulsory school attendance, allow parents to veto any lesson plan, implement vouchers to divert money from public schools and to make New Hampshire a Right-to-Work-For-Less state. He and his band got in because 6,300 NEA New Hampshire members and their families and their friends stayed home in 2010. He is sitting on a bench in the well of the New Hampshire Statehouse now in large part because those same members came out and voted in 2012.
NEA New Hampshire recommended candidates are pro-education, pro-educator, pro-student, and believe as we do that every child in NH deserves a great public school, and caring qualified educators. I urge you to support them this November 4. I ask that when you vote, don’t go alone. Bring your family and friends and neighbors. Contact former students, be a mobilizing force in your neighborhood and get people to the polls. We only need one more vote than the other side.
You can find all our recommended candidates here on our website and on the NEA New Hampshire app. Click on the My Vote icon and enter your address. All our recommended candidates will be listed on your screen. Feel free to bring your smart phone into the voting booth to help remind you who the pro-education candidates are. You don’t have to be a member to download the app so tell your family and friends about it as well.
Elected leaders make critical decisions for our students and schools every day. Unfortunately, most of these leaders know very little about our schools. Too often, and in too many places, these decisions are based on politics rather than best practices. We know that educators are the real experts when it comes to our schools. We need elected officials who will put the interests of our schools and our students at the top of the agenda. Our students need and deserve to have the adults in their lives work together to help ensure their success.
We all have a personal stake in this election. The candidates this year have profoundly different views on the issues important to us as professional educators. From education funding, class size, respect for our profession, access to healthcare, or affording to send our kids to college, the candidates could not be more different. We know why we got into this profession. We know the real meaning of the words “priority”, “future”, and “fairness”. We need lawmakers who do as well. We need elected officials who will keep our students first and extreme political ideology out of the discussion. We cannot afford to allow New Hampshire to become a state where a few people do really well, while a growing number of people struggle to get by.
Most of our students can’t vote yet. It’s up to us: educators, parents, and community leaders, to make choices November 4 that will help ensure that our students have the future they deserve. Please join me in supporting our recommended candidates on election day. We need only to look back to 2010 to see what happens if we stay home.