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Editor's Note

Hello Student Members.

My name is Tommie Leaders, and I’m the current chairperson of the NEA Student program.

This year, as you know, is the presidential election. But there are also crucial elections happening in your states and in your college towns. All of us need to pay attention to these elections because the outcomes will affect our lives as college students and impact our future careers in education. That all sounds like good reasoning, right? But, as busy as we all are with classes, volunteering, and just day-to-day activities, we might need a reminder of why student members need to pay close attention to this upcoming election cycle. Below are a few reasons:

Did you know:

  • The federal government determines how much interest rates are on your student loans?
  • The federal government determines the funding levels for Pell Grants?
  • State legislatures are cutting funding to higher education institutions forcing your campus to raise tuition to make up the difference?
  •  Governors are balancing education budgets by cutting resources to teachers, support staff and school systems?
  • State legislatures are changing the rules on who and how you can even vote in this election. Some locations are making it almost impossible for you to vote as a college student. How can you affect the outcome of an election if you can’t even vote?

Some states are passing laws not only restricting voting but also restricting voter registration efforts, an activity traditionally carried out on college campuses by students all over the country. In Florida, if you, as the person registering people to vote, don’t turn in the required forms within 48 hours, you will be charged a monetary fine for each form turned in late. In Wisconsin, the change in the voter ID law now requires that, in order to vote, college students must obtain a separate voter ID in addition to their current school ID. Voting is the right, and the responsibility, of every U.S. citizen. Why then would we make it more difficult for people to vote? Shouldn’t we focus on encouraging every single American to register and cast a vote?

Don’t worry, it’s not as grim as it sounds. You can still make a difference. You can still direct the course of your future. Just follow these easy steps:

  1. Know the Issues—check out EducationVotes.org for up-to-date information on voter protection from our partners at Rock the Vote and Fair Elections Legal Network.
  2. Decide What’s Important —use www.SurveyMonkey.com to find out what students on your campus care about.
  3. Gather resources—download toolkits from CampusVoteProject.com to access ready-made planning guides for voter protection issues.
  4.  Organize Activities—visit www.NEAstudents.org to apply for (SOAR) grants to help pay for your events.
  5. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

I believe that we as young voters can change…well, pretty much anything. All we need to do is take action and share our stories. Post your events on our National Education Association Student Program Facebook page (www.facebook.com/neastudentprogram) so other chapters, leaders, and members can learn from your success! 

I look forward to riding the wave of activism we create leading up to the 2012 elections in November.