What's Your Issue?
By Cynthia Kopkowski, Svetlana Shkolnikova, and Jazzy Wright
By now, the mailbox is jammed with flyers from the campaigns outlining candidates' positions as they try to woo your vote. TV shows seem merely to be filler for the political commercials that air 24—7. And if the phone's ringing, odds are good that it's someone stumping for a candidate. But are the folks doing all the talking doing any listening, too? NEA is. We spent the last few months asking members what the most important issues are to them right now. They shared what will be the deciding factor in how they cast their vote come November 4 in the local, state, and presidential races on their ballots.
Their answers may surprise you. While education was the most popular response, it was by no means the only thing weighing on the minds of educators, education support professionals, students, and retirees. Many respondents couldn't limit themselves to just one, because their concerns are multi-faceted. Like Mary Smiley, a Sheridan, WY, teacher who said she'll cast her vote based on the candidates' stances on education and health care, "and the desire to have a drastic change from the way this country has been going." For Marjorie Gibson of Las Vegas, Nevada, it was the three E's: education, economy, and environment.
With time ticking down, it's not too late for these folks and for you to make a difference on election day. Take an hour or a weekend afternoon in the next five weeks to attend a rally, visit the candidates' Web sites to see where they stand on the issue of paramount importance to you—like public education—or offer a few hours of your time to volunteer for the candidate. (Learn more on how to do just that by visiting our Campaign site.)
Now, let's step into the voting booths with our NEA colleagues. NEA members tell candidates what they need to pay attention to if they want educators' votes.
Choose Your Own Activism Adventure
Will you be as loud as a fan at the World Series or as quiet as a mouse this campaign season? You may be surprised to know that both methods can be just as effective when it comes to supporting pro-public education candidates between now and November 4. Check out eight great ideas for getting involved, whether you want to volunteer to knock on doors or knock out some emails.
You can't vote if you're not registered! So make sure your voter registration is current and, while you're at it, take care of your colleagues, too, by reminding them. Helping high school students who are eligible to register is a great step to encouraging involvement in the political process.
2. Plant a sign
Some members will have their say without ever opening their mouths. How? A political sign in their front yards. Just call campaign headquarters and ask for a drop-off.
3. Post a note
Send postcards to your friends, reminding them to vote and making your case for your candidate. "Dear so-and-so, I'd like you to join me in voting for…" In national polling, teachers routinely rank on the top of the list for trustworthiness, so people will trust your advice! It doesn't matter if you use traditional paper postcards or e-cards, just get them out there in the next few weeks.
4. Flash some cash
If you don't have the time to walk door-to-door or the energy to make phone calls on behalf of a candidate, write a check. (Consider contributing to the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. Visit www.neafund.org for more information. All contributions are entirely voluntary.)
5. Ring 'em up!
Working the phones at a phonebank is a common campaign chore that may sound intimidating but it isn't. The worst anybody can say is "I'm not interested." Don't take it personally and dial up the next person on the list. They could be the voter who makes all the difference on election day.
6. Party like a rock star
During a hot election year, there's nothing cooler than being a political party animal. You might have heard of young people across the country going to a house party through MoveOn.org or one of the campaigns. Why not throw one yourself? It's simple: If you don't already have a candidate in mind, first head over to www.neafund.org to find someone who supports improving teacher pay, overhauling NCLB, and stopping the spread of vouchers. Then put together a music playlist ("Don't Stop Believing" by Journey or "Politik" by Coldplay, or Neil Diamond's "America.") Serve up drinks with fun political names like the Obama-rama or Straight Talk Sangria. Send folks home with a swag bag with campaign stickers, buttons, and literature about the candidate.
7. Work the polls
Catch up with neighbors and share your local Association's recommendations for candidates at the same time by handing out literature at a local polling location. It's the last time—and perhaps the most important—you'll be able to make a pitch for a pro-public education candidate.
8. Use the buddy system
You wouldn't go to the emergency room alone, would you? Well this election may be just as important to your professional health. So take a buddy, or two, or three, to the polls. It would be especially kind if you considered friends who can't drive themselves. Stop for coffee and doughnuts. Have a little fun while you're making the world better for public education. Vote!