Many New Hampshire schools started the new school year with fewer educators than they ended with in June. Some schools still face critical shortages in key areas. Educators across the state are optimistic as always about the prospects of the new year, and are anxious to get back into our classrooms with our students, but we all wonder how we got here, will things get any worse, and what can we do to make it better?
As summer vacation memories fade, the nightmare of last year’s teacher loyalty bills, divisive concepts laws, gun violence in schools and Commissioner Edelblut’s constant efforts to destabilize public education and demoralize educators returns.
It is safe to say that our children’s future has never been more at risk as those who seek to defund and privatize public education in the Granite State remain in charge of the Department of Education, the Statehouse, and the Governor’s office.
Public education has become an increasingly high-profile political issue on the local, state and national level. Fittingly, most of the solutions we seek will have to come from elected officials and the political arena.
The good news is, the most recent nationwide polling clearly indicates that the majority of parents and voters understand the biggest challenges facing our students and our public schools are: 1) getting students the one-on-one support they need, 2) addressing educator shortages, and 3) ensuring students have the mental health services they need. They want candidates to address these issues, and when they do, they reject the politicians trying to bring political culture wars into schools.
Most of us want the same thing – strong, quality public schools that give every student the freedom to reach their potential. All students – Black and white, Native and newcomer, Hispanic and Asian from rural, suburban and urban communities alike – should have the opportunity to learn and succeed.
When the parents and voters in Croydon saw what was happening to their schools, they came out in large numbers to send a clear, unmistakable message: Don’t mess with our kid’s future and their schools.
As the New Hampshire Bulletin reported in March 2022, “In Bedford, teacher Andrea Campbell unseated a conservative school board member, as town officials recorded a 36 percent increase in turnout. New Hampshire’s 2022 school board elections were supposed to be proving grounds for conservative frustrations around school policies, from spending to COVID-19-related restrictions to teachings about racial justice and diversity. Instead, local elections appeared to deliver broad victories for progressive public school advocates, who argued against what they characterized as threats to traditional public schools from the right. In total, 29 candidates designated by progressive organizers as “pro-public education” won Tuesday night, many in traditionally conservative towns like Brookline and Londonderry.”
“These pro-public education candidates were very vocal about the fact that we need to put our students first and that some of these attacks on public education on an honest education are a distraction from allowing teachers to teach and our students to learn,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, a progressive group that helped recruit and fund many of the candidates for school board.
What we see in communities across New Hampshire is parents and educators coming together to support students and schools. Their goal is to make sure that our schools have the necessary resources and staff to provide students with safe, healthy environments and the individualized attention that they need.
But we only succeed if we vote.
That’s why NEA-NH has embarked on our Vote Your Future campaign – to make sure every member knows the power they hold and the responsibility we each bear to exercise our right to vote.
Did you know that one in 100 Americans is an NEA member? NEA has deep roots in every community to turn out voters and to contribute to margins of victory in battleground states like New Hampshire.
In 2020, one in every 28 voters nationwide came from an NEA household, and 93% of NEA members voted in the 2020 elections. NEA members outperformed the general public in voter turnout by about 26%.
As the largest labor union in the country, and as a union that is 76% women, the voice of educators has been discounted for too long. NEA and NEA-NH are working to ensure the voice of our members is heard in the halls of power, starting at the ballot box.
Research consistently shows that educators (teachers and education support professionals) are among the most trusted and respected people in every community. So we all must speak up and show up to vote.
This year, it all begins on September 13 in New Hampshire. There are a number of contested primary races that NEA-NH has made recommendations in because too much is at stake this year. You can find them on page three of this edition of the Educator and on our website.
There are some things every student should learn about, like the Trail of Tears, slavery, and important figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Anne Frank. Our children deserve to learn accurate, age-appropriate lessons about America, from our greatest triumphs to our darkest moments. That includes slavery and how racism affects us today.
This year, the elections must also be about accountability, ensuring that those who have brought us the last 2 years of misery in our schools, at our school board meetings and in the statehouse are held responsible for their actions and not allowed to force their radical version of education on us any longer from their elected office.
Elections that begin next week will decide if our kids will be able to learn these things in our classroom. We need to participate in great numbers to ensure our children.