In 1997, I was 24 years old and new to teaching. I was young and naive, but I was excited to make a difference. During the first ten years, I was teaching, working on my Masters Degree, taking countless professional development classes to improve my practice, and I was starting a family. You would think that during that time, I would understand how schools were funded in our state, but I was too busy to learn and understand, and it was not a priority. Besides, I trusted our elected officials to make those decisions. What harm could be done?
In 2008, funding for public education in our state would begin its downfall. For ten years, our students would be robbed of one billion dollars. As I look back and reflect, I realized I was part of the problem. I did not take the time to learn about funding in our state, and I did not take the time to learn about the people who were making decisions impacting public schools. I’m sure I was guilty of voting some of those individuals into office, or I was guilty of not voting at all. I was not new to teaching anymore, but I was apathetic.
About four years ago, I started paying attention to the decisions my representatives were making on my behalf. It was disheartening to see decisions being made were not in the best interest of our students. I was angry because our elected officials were passing bills damaging public schools. I got involved by becoming an association site representative at my school, and I started attending association meetings. My eyes started to open. Attending meetings and relaying information back to my site was completely out of my comfort zone because it was political. I did not like to discuss or get involved in politics, but I could no longer afford to sit and watch the dismantling of our schools. I needed to get involved and that meant getting political.
Then, I learned about the plight of our school funding by researching, listening, and asking questions. We have a long road ahead of us. Year after year, cuts have been made to our schools. Remember, I was part of the problem because I voted for lawmakers without questioning whether they were doing it for students attending our public schools. By the time I realized what was happening, the situation in our public schools had rapidly declined.
There is a lot to understand, and I still don’t understand it all, but I know we need to get back what has been taken away from our students for the last ten years. One way is to go rogue and vote! But it is not enough to show up and cast a vote, we must take the time to make an educated and informed vote and ensure that elected officials make decisions that will benefit and represent the majority of our students.
We can help fix this problem, but we have to do it now. It is not too late to begin the process of being an active and informed voter.
- Register to vote by visiting Service Arizona. In order to vote in the primary election on August 28, 2018, you must register by July 30, 2018. Don’t delay. Voting in the primaries is just as is important as voting in the general election. Did you know only 29% of registered voters showed up at the polls in the 2016 primary election?
- Are you registered as an Independent? You can still vote in the primary, but you will need to request the ballot type (Democratic, Green, OR Republican Party). Visit the Maricopa County Recorder’s website to check your voter registration status. This page will provide information about the election district you live in, and it will list elected officials who represent YOU. You can also select to receive an early ballot, and you will have time to research the candidates before casting your vote.
- Do you know how your elected officials voted to support public education? You can review the 2017 Legislative Report Card compiled by the Arizona Education Association. You can review the voting record of state senators and representatives on bills that impacted students in 2017. Be on the lookout for the 2018 Report Card, but in the meantime, you can read the 2018 Legislative Wrap Up.
- Learn about ballot initiatives related to public education. Have you read about Prop 305 and Invest in Ed? I challenge you to read and learn about the ballot initiatives that impact students.
I was an uninformed and apathetic voter for many years because I was too busy to take the time to learn about funding in our state. I was part of the problem, but now I want to be part of the solution and so can you. It will involve getting political and perhaps going rogue. When you really go rogue, it’s not just about knowing these facts for yourself. It’s about making sure all eligible voters know how to get involved! We have that responsibility. How can you help?
Image credit: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/typewriter/v/vote.html
Karla, this is a great list of steps for AZ citizens to become informed this election cycle. Can’t wait to share! Thanks!
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Karla, thank you for leading teachers towards active citizenship. Your personal story and the steps to take action will be helpful to many teachers who are in the very same position you have described.
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Karla–Thank You! Great steps for all of us to follow.
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