Time to Get Involved - #OKElections16
I wanted to compile a short list of talking points, a resource for educators or parents willing to encourage others to get more involved in state elections but unsure what to say. My goal was for it to be succinct, informative, and relatively free of tone and attitude, so as to be more palatable to the masses.
I think it at least ended up relatively informative. Modify tone and length as you see fit.
Please ask your prinicpal if you can have five minutes at the next faculty meeting to discuss getting teachers more involved in the decisions which substantially impact them - AND THEIR KIDS. Discuss it with your department. Email this to friends, neighbors, co-workers - and then follow up with actual conversations.
The goal isn't to get them to vote for your guy, or agree with you about everything. More educators and thoughtful parents involved in the process will have a positive impact, period. Vote your conscience; it's the not voting and not having a conscience that's killing us right now.
See, other than a vigorous sign-carrying from time to time, far too many of us don't pay attention to the legislation that affects us or the office-holders who - supposedly - represent us in OKC. It can seem time-consuming, confusing, and depressing. We're busy, and that stuff seems so far away. It's not like we can DO anything about it, right?
But there are something like 45,000 teachers in Oklahoma. Many of us are married, or have adult children, or siblings in the state, or even, like, friends - meaning an easy 100,000+ voters if we'll only decide it's important. Roughly 800,000 people voted in the last statewide election. See the math?
With a little agitating, we can have actual impact this year. We don't even have to win them all - we just have to be a reliably involved constituency. Right now we're not. Many legislators - both friend and foe - will tell you that teachers sometimes fuss, but they don't show up and support candidates who support them. They'll call and email and gripe, but don't vote out people who serve their fiscal overlords in ways that hurt our kids. That must change.
We have momentum, starting with an early win in the District 34 Special Election this year. Social media is abuzz. The weirdness of the national campaign has people paying attention, so let's build on that. Be vocal, be reasonable, be civil - and be informed.
I'm sharing this as someone who avoided state politics for many years. My goal is to make the information as accessible as possible for any of you who perhaps haven't been as involved as you are now considering. No judgment - we just need your help.
#OKElections16 State Primaries
March 1st was, as you were probably aware, the date of the Presidential Primary in Oklahoma. That's a whole other descent into madness we won't worry about here.
Statewide Primaries are on Tuesday, June 28th. This is when we begin the process of choosing who'll be setting state edu-policy for the next 2 - 4 years. This is when you help choose your party's nominee for each office serving the district in which you live. Sometimes there will be multiple candidates from the same party running for an office; sometimes not.
Members of the State House of Representatives are elected every two years - every one of them is up for re-election (or not) every time. State Senators are elected every four years, meaning half are up for re-election (or not) each time.
You have until June 3rd to make sure you're registered to vote in Statewide Primaries. Here's why that matters...
We really do have Democrats here. Some even hold office. A few are kinda out there, but most are strong supporters of public education. They have limited impact, however, unless there are MORE of them working together. So, if those are your leanings, you need to get involved and vote these folks in. I realize national politics seems a bit futile for lefties in these parts, but you can have a huge impact closer to home.
As to Republicans, the state has quite a range. Primaries are even MORE important on this side of the aisle. They won't 'feel the Bern' on many issues, but some are nicer to public education than others. Don't take their word for it - they all SAY they support teachers. Figure out who's been voting for what.
If you care about other issues deeply, that's great - look at their records on those ALSO. But be realistic about what state legislators CAN and CANNOT actually do. They CAN substantially help or hurt public education, they have great impact on whether or not your grandmother has access to health care, and they come up with all the reasons to keep everyone locked up indefinitely. They make state policy for state-level issues.
Most social issues in the 21st century are shaped by federal legislation and Supreme Court decisions. For better or worse, the North won the Civil War. The 14th Amendment is a thing. All we accomplish by repeatedly passing laws in clear violation of national socio-political realities are expensive lawsuits (remember that budget crisis?) - which the state always loses - and national mockery.
A vote to return to the 19th century is a wasted vote - and that's before we even address how ethically abhorrent it is to begin with.
But public education IS in their power to improve. Or change. Or destroy.
Any state primary in which no candidate receives a majority of the vote will result in a Primary Runoff election on August 23rd. Only the top two candidates for each disputed office will be on these ballots.
#OKElections16 State Elections
Statewide elections are on the same date - November 8, 2016 - as national elections.
PLEASE DO NOT VOTE STRAIGHT PARTY TICKET when it's time to fill out your ballot. I'd not presume to tell you who to vote for nationally (well, I would - but not right this second), but it's SO WORTH TAKING A LITTLE TIME to get to know something about your state and local options.
An Oklahoma Democrat isn't necessarily the same creature as a California Democrat or a Massachusetts Democrat. Our 'lefties' often have strong approval ratings from the NRA, conservative social values, or other traits which would count as 'crazy right-winger' in other parts of the country.
As far as Oklahoma Republicans, as I suggested above, there's quite a range. Some of them are the sorts of bile-spewing demagogues who brand the entire party as haters and nut-jobs, but many are good enough folks genuinely trying to guide the state along the right path, whether we agree on the details or not.
* Several of the top #OklaEd bloggers and news sites cover this stuff regularly. You can subscribe to their blogs, read the stuff that interests you, and easily discard the rest.
* Subscribe to the Tulsa World and/or that Oklahoma City paper that's not nearly as good. They'll often have candidate info as election time approaches, and with a subscription you can search past months and years to see if they've been in the news before, and for what.
* OpenStates.org is free to use and allows you to easily search for specific legislation or for specific legislators. You can pull up a list of every bill they've authored, successful or no, or look at who voted which way for any specific piece of legislation over the past several years. There are topic searches of state legislation as well, so if you're not sure which bills you're looking for, you can look at bills involving "education" or other key words.
* OKLegislature.gov is the official website of the State Legislature. Here you can easily find out who your elected officials are, and look over their official profiles. Many have official biographies, some have introductory videos, and most have basic contact information. Some respond to constituents, some don't - which by itself tells you something, yes?
* If you're on Facebook, groups like Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education post regular articles and updates and engage in discussions related to public ed. If no one's talking about your legislative district, bring it up yourself and see what happens.
Between Now and Election Days
Let your elected representatives for your districts KNOW that you support them - and why, or that you DON'T - and why. Be clear, concise, and polite.
Better yet, run yourself. I'm absolutely serious. You'll work fewer hours for far more money, and have a seat at the table making policy. If not you, talk to your spouse, your favorite principal, or that amazing educator who just retired. I'm telling you, teachers and their people running for state office is a thing this year.
I'll support you. Many of the legit blogs will, too. Yes, some of the current office-holders have big financial backing from out-of-state, but all that money means little if they can't get the votes - and their fiscal overlords show little mercy to losers.
This is the year. I can't tell you what next year will bring, but I can assure you it will be better than it would have if you'll simply get involved and stay informed. You owe it to yourself, and your state, and your family.
Most of all, cheesy as it is, you owe it to our kids.