Saturday, October 29, 2016

Vote, Dammit!

I’m reading –actually listening to—a book called Start with Why? By Simon Sinek
…it’s a business and organizational book about inspiring others with your vision as a way to sell more, work harder, create a social movement. It’s making me think of #oklaed – how it began, and what we’d say our inspiring vision is.

#oklaed is a loose confederacy of educators and parents who want more from our schools, more from our policy makers. More from ourselves. I think if we asked all the educators and parents who show up for our #oklaed chats, who attend the EdCamps, who participate in social media around our hashtag, “What is your vision for #oklaed? What’s your purpose? Your ‘Why?’ you’d get variations on a theme…to participate in the education of the 670,000+ school children in our state. To make education better because we were there, and we spoke up.

It’s now crunch time, #oklaed…We can make education better…if we show up. Show up at the polls and vote.

Scores of our friends and colleagues answered that ‘why?’ with, “My purpose is to run for office, to represent my students’ families at the Capitol. To participate in the legislative dialogue.” That has been inspiring. I’m giddy to think I have friends running for office. A former student running for office. People I KNOW are running. They’ve put their home life on hold. They’ve learned how to run a campaign. They’ve knocked doors of strangers and pitched their candidacy. They’ve been interviewed. They’ve studied other issues facing their constituents. They’ve become students again so that they are informed to serve.

They’ve shown up. Now it’s our turn.

Every one of us should know the candidates for state Representative and Senator in our districts. Every one of us should have informed ourselves on the State Questions. We should know that we’ll be voting on the retention of judges. That’s been our test prep. Finding sources and looking at websites. You can type in your address and get a sample ballot from the OK Election Board.

The test is November 8. If you haven’t voted by mail (I did, and it was fun to sit in my easy chair and use my phone to research issues), or if you don’t plan to vote early (I’ve done that too. I’ve found the workers at the Election Board to be helpful and friendly), you must show up at the polls and vote for these education candidates. Ones we know share a common vision and purpose for #oklaed.

There is a State Question on the ballot that will directly impact #oklaed: SQ779. It will provide raises for teachers…much-needed raises. At a cost of a penny sales tax. This SQ has been made necessary because our policy makers have failed to do their job of funding #oklaed. They throw out false promises, but they do nothing.

Sincere opponents of the SQ ask us to wait for a ‘better’ plan…one that does not fall on the shoulders of the working poor and middle class (read: Teachers). One that’s ‘fairer’. You know, the legislature has had years to do just that, and they’ve failed to prioritize education or teachers.  For eight years we have seen policy makers rip holes in school budgets, and cut per-pupil funding. They’ll tell you they’ve increased funding in that time…technically true. BUT because our school population has far outstripped their funding, we are still near the bottom of per-pupil expenditures…as we are for teacher salaries.

People tell us other state workers haven’t had a raise either. True. Very true. And they do God’s work, just as educators do. I hate the feeling of pitting one group of underpaid state workers against another. We should be allies, demanding our policy makers do the right thing.

Obviously – my stand is clear. But it’s evolved as I realized it is the ONLY proposal on the table. The. Only. One. Everyone has ‘a plan’ to help, but no one’s done anything. People tell us to wait for the perfect plan…and my response is, “I’ve waited since 1979…when we moved to Oklahoma, and I love $1000 real dollars in my salary from my job in Iowa…with one more year’s experience.”

I have two nightmares about SQ779. If it passes, policy makers will say, “Well, see? We didn’t have to lift a finger to solve the problem. “The people” will tax themselves. Woohoo! Business as usual” If it fails, they might say, “Well, see? “The people” don’t care any more than we do about teachers. Woohoo! Business as usual .”

The combination of education friendly candidates AND SQ779 gives us all a unique opportunity to really do the right thing for schools and students and teachers.

Do the right thing. Vote.

Here’s what I know about my blog posts about voting: they are the lowest-read pieces I write. People don’t seem to want to read about voting. Here and here and here and here, this, my first voting post. Sorry/not sorry for linking all the old posts. I write about voting a lot. To a tiny audience, it appears.

Here’s what I know about teachers and voting: WE DON’T. Depending on the source, I’ve heard anywhere between 18% and 30% of teachers vote. That’s why policy makers ignore us when we email and write and visit and rally. They know we won’t show up. For all our commitment to the vision of #oklaed, we don’t take the action to build that vision into reality.

Do the right thing.

Vote. And vote for the vision, the purpose, the 'why', of a state that will support and fund public schools.

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