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What If Every Educator Pledged to Vote in 2016?

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Author: dianeravitch

So many terrible education policies have been enacted in the past several years, and so many people feel powerless to act and make a difference. But there is a way to take action: Vote. That’s the only way to get better leadership. It works, but only if everyone votes.

 

What if every educator took a pledge to vote in 2016? If you vote, you can beat big money. Imagine the difference educators can make in every state. You can save public education, save the teaching profession, and restore democracy.

 

This idea is starting in Néw York. It should spread to every state and city and town and village and school district.

 

Subject: Educator Oath To Vote

 

Hello, Fellow BATs,

 

I have a bit of an announcement to make – sort of a “Coming to a School Near You” kind of thing and I believe, if successful, it will change the state of politics in New York for years to come.

 

I’ll ask you to imagine, before reading the long explanation below, how things would be different if every single one of the 250,000 NYSUT educators voted in the November 2016 election. Not only WOULD they vote but they would ANNOUNCE that they would vote a year before hand by signing an oath/pledge that they would do so. Imagine if NYSUT then announced that “EVERY SINGLE NYSUT EDUCATOR WILL BE VOTING IN THE NOVEMBER 8, 2016 ELECTION!”

 

I believe that money will continue to dominate politics until this happens and I have little doubt that it can be done…

 

Background: Back in November, after the election, My co-president, Tim Jacques, and I heard that only 32% of NYSUT members voted. The actual numbers are, 87% registered to vote and about 50% of them voted in, arguably, the most important election regarding education that we have seen in a long time – maybe ever. Pitiful!!!

 

Needless to say, we were depressed by that number and shared with each other things like, “if we don’t vote when our students, profession, and public education are under attack, we are toast and, maybe, we have ourselves to blame.”

 

We also discussed the fact that, all the rallies and forums are great and we have and will continue to attend many but, in the end, none of that really matters if teachers just sit on their hands come Election Day.

 

That conversation turned into one about how to get teachers to vote but this would not be just another “get out the vote drive” – we are looking for 100% of educators to commit to voting.

 

We came up with a plan of how that could be done. We envisioned every local president receiving a box of Educator Voting Oaths that they could distribute to their building reps and have them get every educator in their district to take an oath that they will vote in the November 8, 2016 election. The oath wouldn’t say WHO to vote for, just that they would, and they would “keep public education and their students in mind” when they voted. In other words, the network is already in place to reach every educator in every school district in NY State and that’s what we decided we would try to do…

 

After our conversation turned serious, we pitched the idea to many NYSUT officials, who “loved the idea” and thought it could work but they were dealing with so much planning of rallies and other activities they would have to get back to us but we were told, “don’t let us forget.”

 

We also shared the idea with our LRS and she too thought it was a powerful idea and said she would help prod those we talked to to move on it. Then, about a month ago, She called us and said she wants to meet and talk…

 

At that meeting she proceeded to tell us that she was in a meeting with NYSUT LRSs from around the state and they were sitting around depressed as the budget vote had just gone through and they were feeling hopeless, lost, depressed, and wondering what their next move was. She then stood up and presented the Voting Oath idea. She told us, “Eric and Tim, I kid you not, the entire room lit up.” She said the room went from depressed to hopeful immediately and they spent the next hours talking about the idea of having 100% of active NYSUT educators taking an oath to vote. She told us they were ready to move full steam ahead…immediately.

 

So, my district – Brunswick (Brittonkill) – went to work. We have 129 NYSUT members and we gave ourselves a week to get every member to sign the oath. We had a meeting with building reps and distributed oaths along with a list and voter registration forms. We called a general membership meeting and informed the staff. We emailed those that couldn’t make it. At the general membership meeting we had a well respected teacher come down and sign the oath – the staff stood and enthusiastically applauded.

 

When the building reps went to work they gained 129 signed oaths – 100% – in just two days. The buzz around the building was electric and the building reps were totally inspired. We had two Minot objection about not wanting to be told what to do but they were easily overcome by stressing that we are simply asking them to stand with all educators around the state to give their word that they would vote.

 

In the end, we had done what we imagined – every Brittonkill teacher will vote in the November 8, 2016 election and now it is time to duplicate that in every other school district.

 

Again, imagine for a moment the power this holds. If NYSUT could stand up and show that 250,000 active educators were committed and poised to vote in the Nov. 2016 election I have no doubt that all state candidates for the assembly, and the senate, as well as others, would have to take note.

 

Imagine local presidents walking into legislator offices and presenting a stack of oaths from all educators in their district…that has power.

 

Once every educator in the state makes that commitment, NYSUT will find the right time to reveal it to the public (probably around next years budget time).

 

The plan right now is that every school district present this plan to their members at their opening day general membership meeting next September followed by the gathering of signed oaths by September 30th.

 

Take note that this is being driven by the rank and file. Teachers along with LRSs will make this happen and NYSUT will provide the oaths to be signed (see pic of oath below). Actually, you should all know that this initiative was started by two pissed off BATs!!!

 

Finally, I will point out that a feeling of helplessness has infected most educators and this gets at that. This is one small, easy thing that every educator can do that, when combined with the same action by others, has tremendous power. It reminds me of one of my favorite things ever written by historian Howard Zinn – “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

 

In the end, I would like all BATs to know this is on the horizon. Your input and comments are welcome.

 

Sincerely,

 
Eric Olson and Tim Jacques
Teachers

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