What’s at Stake When We Vote November 7
October 26, 2023
October 26, 2023
By Tom Allen
High-stakes campaigning and voting are going on in Virginia right now and, if they go haywire, supporters of our public schools could wake up on the morning of November 8 in a world in which those schools quickly begin to look very different.
“Everything about our classrooms is governed by politics,” says Christina Bohringer of the Education Association of Alexandria, “and it’s crucial that all educators are paying attention to who is running for local and state offices so we can help elect pro-public education candidates—maybe even more so now, when some politicians are working to decide what books educators can use, the names we can call our students, and the information they want to force us to leave out of American History.”
Every single member of our General Assembly is up for election, and here’s some of what could be headed our way if we fail to elect a majority of legislators who want to protect and strengthen public education:
Continued and probably worsened underfunding. Governor Glenn Youngkin proposed an education budget that stripped millions from school coffers, hoping instead to use that money to offer tax breaks to corporations and wealthy individuals. Such a move would have made raising the money to grow salaries and provide schools with adequate resources virtually impossible.
The loss of collective bargaining. The wrong General Assembly members could mean the loss of the right to negotiate contracts, something educators have fought for decades to achieve, and something that works in favor of both school employees and students.
Severe restrictions on teaching. There’s a significant movement in our state to whitewash “uncomfortable” history, to remove books some deem unacceptable, and otherwise manage what teachers can teach and the way they do it. The freedom to teach the truth must be protected.
More public money being diverted to private schools. Too many legislators and statewide leaders seem interested in turning the public against its schools in favor of private schools even though such education is beyond the means of most Virginians, especially the economically disadvantaged.
Reduced support for the most vulnerable. The Youngkin administration has downplayed DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) initiatives and removed crucial protections for LGBTQ+ and transgender students.
None of this is good, and there’s more, which is why public education supporters cannot stand by and let any of it happen.
“We desperately need officials in office who support public school students, public school educators, and the freedom to teach our full history,” says Bohringer, one of VEA’s representatives on the National Education Association’s Board of Directors.
There are some concrete ways you can help support your students and colleagues at the polls, including helping with Get Out the Vote efforts, being a part of nonpartisan phone banks, or volunteering in a candidate’s campaign. To get a full listing of what’s available and needed, visit mobilize.us/vea. You’ll find a variety of excellent opportunities to dip your toes into the political process.
The inside information you have as an educator is your biggest advantage. VEA members staff our schools every day and know what our students and their colleagues need most to succeed. Share what you know!
Our members carefully evaluate candidates in General Assembly elections through the VEA Fund for Children and Public Education, our union’s voluntary political action arm. The VEA Fund’s mission is to help elect friends of public education, so members interview candidates and make recommendations. The Fund also makes financial contributions to some candidates, paid for by donations—no membership dues are used for this purpose.
Here are the candidates the Fund is recommending for this November’s elections:
The Virginia Voter Guide (thevirginiavoterguide.com) is a VEA-created resource ready to answer your election questions and help ensure that you don’t miss your opportunity to vote. If you type in your address at the site, you’ll learn who’s running for statewide and local offices in your community and which candidates have earned the recommendation of the VEA Fund for Children and Public Education. There’s also a way to check your voter registration status, apply for a mail-in ballot, and find your polling place, along with a section of answers to frequently-asked voting and election questions.
Tom Allen is editor of the Virginia Journal of Education.