Why voting doesn't matter so much for schools
- Even all the way down to school board elections, Jay Mathews writes for The Washington Post that voting doesn’t often make a big difference for schools, though Massachusetts voters’ "no" vote on raising the charter cap is one prominent exception.
- Mathews points out every presidential candidate says they’ll make schools better, regardless of their party, which means even if education is the most important issue in a voter’s mind, it likely won’t help him or her choose one candidate over the other.
- The big education decisions come from state and local unelected officials because so far, Mathews writes, education has not been particularly politicized, leaving voters’ real impact in active engagement outside of election season.
The way that appointed officials get into their positions of power to create sweeping changes in U.S. education policy are through elected officials. Voting decisions do trickle down, and the concrete strategies for improving education have become, in some cases, very politicized. But differences of opinion over things like charter school expansion, the Common Core State Standards and standardized testing do not break along party lines. How to approach the future of charter schools has split Democrats in general, in addition to splitting the black community, the white community and Latinos. People who agree on a lot of other things do not agree on this issue, which means it cannot become a major campaign issue because candidates need to appeal to a base, and the one sure message that can help a campaign is an appeal to the need for school improvement in a more general sense.
District leaders need to stay involved after the election, participating in state politics to ensure the people who get appointed by those they just elected stay true to educators’ values. State and federal policy has too much influence on schools for district leaders to stay in their local silos and let other people fight it out.
- The Washington Post Why voting hasn’t been a way to improve our nation’s schools
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