We in #oklaed are embroiled in a heated election cycle that has seen educators and family members step up and run for office. We’ve seen some great candidates lose their primaries…we’ve seen some hold on and force run-off elections. We also see many candidates, education-friendly candidates, work toward the November general elections.
This new venture into the political arena has not been without controversy and strife. We advocates for public education have been mocked in news conferences and in print for the audacity of using our citizens’ voice to call for change. We sometimes feel like we’re alone in our efforts.
But we’re NOT. Kansas is also suffering under a Governor who seems intent on following Grover Norquist’s edict and drown state government in a bathtub. His legislature seems more than willing to help. I have an online teacher friend in KS, a fellow National Board Certified Teacher, a passionate educator and eclectic reader. Marsha Ratzel is a creative, innovative middle school science and math teacher, always looking for ways to incorporate technology and literature into her classroom. Marsha and I have never met face to face, but we stay in touch on several social media platforms. I love seeing pictures of her and her cute dog, and her new grandbaby gives us even more ways to bond. Marsha is a friend whose observations and insights I value. She pushes my thinking, and often offers clarity to my impulsiveness. I’ve watched and commiserated with Marsha about the destructive politics that are hurting public schools in both our states. We both agree our roles as Grandmothers adds urgency to our advocacy work for schools and students.
Oklahoma had modest success in our primary elections – some wins, some run-offs. But I believe all candidates sat up and took notice of the issues we’ve been supporting.
Our success is nothing like what happened in Kansas last week.
Kansas’s primary election results were stunning. Ten incumbents were defeated (Three in Oklahoma didn’t make it though their primaries), including the Senate Majority Leader. A US Congressman also lost his primary reelection bid. Analysis points to economic woes and support for public schools as reasons for the ‘revolt’.
On election day my friend Marsha proudly posted her selfie with her ‘I voted’ sticker. Then she posted her insights about her involvement in the election. I pushed and asked questions, and she reflected, as a good National Board Certified Teacher will, and gave me gold.
I’m sharing Marsha’s strategies here, hoping we can find what works for us here in OK…what each of us would feel comfortable doing between now and November. I’m going to share her words and strategies…with commentary.
“I looked hard for candidates that mirrored my K12 education vision.
“I looked for candidates that want to govern and that means something different than running a political campaign. Governing means, to my mind, listening and finding ways to compromise for the benefit of those you govern.
“I looked to defeat incumbents and candidates who were arrogant and who didn't line up with how I think KS kids deserve to be educated with adequate funding.
“I hope I worked hard to make sure all people knew when to vote, how to vote and where to vote.”
Marsha did what I hope we all are doing – she studied and researched. She took actions and words into consideration. She chose the issues that were important to her. She used all the information she had, and she made choices.
Then what did she do?
“I asked friends to just give me 5 minutes and if they didn't want to hear me speak about it again....I was OK with that. No one thought I was a raving lunatic or unreasonable.
“I ask them to take action if they agreed. Some put signs in their front yards and that was it. Some thought they could speak to 1 or 2 other people. Some believed they could push others to just vote.
“It's the whole pebble in the water thing....if anyone can just start a ripple at their local level and influence a very small number of people to participate, I believe we will create a more representative democracy. And that is something we should all work hard to preserve and extend. “
She reached out and talked to friends. She engaged them in conversation. She shared her story and her concerns.
“I do think you have to be willing to tolerate/embrace people that you don't agree with..”
I so appreciate Marsha’s words and her approach. I’m reminded of Tip O’Neill’s line: “All politics is local.” Marsha’s strategy was local. She spoke to friends and neighbors, people with whom she has relationships. She shared her concerns and she asked for their help.
We in OK still have two more elections to face. We can do what KS did. We can send a message that our students’ education is a priority for us, and we will find candidates who are ready to fund public education adequately.
Marsha again: “it was something I came to because I could look myself in the mirror and know I tried. Regardless of the ballot box results.
“I finally figured out that I win whenever I participate. But it is so much sweeter when the election aligns with my hopes.”
We’re not in Kansas. But we can do this too. We need to do what Marsha did…research, look at issues. Engage friends and neighbors in conversation, ask for support, and then vote. Bring someone to the polls with you. Vote #oklaed.
I’m ready to elect education-friendly candidates. Are you?