Today is a day to celebrate. No, not because a certain candidate won the election. But because now we can watch TV knowing that when we fast forward through commercials, we won’t have to catch glimpses of candidates bashing each other or giving some sanctimonious speech. Instead, we will be inundated with mesothelioma lawsuits, car dealers dressing up as pirates and shouting “There she blows! What a great deal!”. Yes, horrible commercials aren’t over, but we can celebrate that they will, at least for a few months, be free of ads for politicians. If that’s not worth celebrating, I don’t know what is?!
Another thing that is worth celebrating though is teachers. This year 1 in 4 races this year had teachers running as a candidate, which is by far the most ever. You even had candidates involved in national and statewide races in Wisconsin (Tony Evers-Governor), Pennsylvania (Chrissy Houlahan, 6th District U.S. Rep.), and Connecticut (Jahana Hayes, 5th District U.S. Rep.). All three of these candidates were successful in their electoral bids. Now, I haven’t gotten a chance to look into the nitty gritty of each of the over 1,400 races that teachers were involved in for local elections, but simply the fact that all of these educators are running tells us that teachers have decided that fighting for students in the classroom isn’t enough anymore. It is time for them to fight for them on the biggest battleground that they can think of: Government.
When you look at the number of teachers who ran this year, you shouldn’t think of it as coincidence that this was the same year that teachers from Oklahoma, Washington state, and Arizona all walked off the job in an attempt to bring light the fact that education in this country needs to change, and the way that we treat teachers, including how they are paid need to change.
In Wisconsin, State Superintendent of Education Tony Evers defeated Scott Walker. I won’t bore you with all of the political rhetoric that went into the campaign or what went on in the race. But just the fact that an educator, defeated the Governor who greatly reduced the ability of Wisconsin teachers to participate in collective bargaining to gain better pay for themselves, shows that education is on the hearts and minds of people within the state of Wisconsin. Governor-Elect Evers, who was also a teacher and principal before becoming State Superintendent, said that “the state has starved the school system of needed funds, and schools are failing because of it.” Mr. Walker on the other hand compared teachers who protest to Islamic terrorists. The tune has been changed, and now a song that sings the praises of public educators will be sung from the capitol rotunda in Madison.
In the Pennsylvania 6th, Chrissy Houlahan, was is a former science teacher and Air Force pilot, ran on a platform of improving education funding. She said she would bring what she learned as a teacher for Teach For America, and her time as a literacy advocate, to make education priority in her first year in office. The district that has every type of population imaginable in with rural, suburban, and urban school districts residing within the 6th, was won by an educator who touts the universal improvement of funding for struggling schools, no matter their financial situation.
And last but not least, Jahana Hayes won the 5th District of the state of Connecticut (which I can’t spell. Thanks Spell Check!). The former high school history teacher will be the first black woman to serve in the Senate in the state’s history. How about that?! A history teacher making history. I have heard it said that that those that can’t do, teach. It would seem to me here that those who teach, can. Hayes’ big slogan for her campaign was “We believe that we have to protect the future that we promise for our kids.” She promised her kids that they would be able to accomplish their goals while she was a teacher. She used that dream mentality for her campaign. Teaching in schools that serve underprivileged students, Hayes would go on to win 2016 National Teacher of the year. She is part of this new wave of educators who are bringing education to the ballot box.
The one big thing that strikes me about her election is that she will representing that same district that contains Sandy Hook Elementary School, The site of the horrible mass shooting in Newtown that took the lives 20 children and 6 adults. The tragedy and others, according the Hayes, is the reason why she ran. She ran so that the troubles that her students face ever day would be at the forefront of the minds of politicians. She ran on better healthcare, easier access to mental health, reducing violent crime, and providing schools with the means to help those students that they deem to be at risk, by asking for more dollars to be given to schools in need. She ran for her students. Now, she will represent them in Congress.
Do not be fooled though. There is still much work to be done within the realm of politics and education. Teachers in many states are still fighting for better pay, smaller classroom sizes, early childhood education, technical training, loan forgiveness, pension protections, and larger budgets to do more with in their school district. I realize that I sit her in a private school classroom typing this, but I spent by first 5 years teaching in the public school system and believe in the teachers and educators who are in it. It is not broken. It is full of wonderful people who simply need the opportunity and support to finish the job.
Thank for reading, and for voting.