About Jake Miller

Mr. Jake Miller teaches middle school history near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Foundation Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WeAreTeachers, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

I’m just as overwhelmed by the 2016 presidential election as any of the rest of our readers. The problem is we’ve already made up our minds – so we’re ready to vote and move on. According to Rasmussen, less than 2% of Americans are undecided on whom to vote for in this nearly infinitely long and toxic race.

However, many Americans know what or who else they’re voting for, and this should especially ring true for our fellow educators who should be building citizenship in our students by exemplifying it ourselves.

All states will be voting for their House Representative. Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution stipulates that “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.” So when others would like to pitch their complaints about federal taxation as President Obama or whomever is his successor without voting for their Members of Congress, they are misdirecting their pitchforks.

Several will vote for the other branch of the legislature, the Senate. These individuals have become quite a powerful component of our federal government, beginning with Democrats who reinvented the filibuster (not letting anything pass without 60 votes) during Pres. George W. Bush’s reign and now with obstructionist Republicans who won’t even hold a hearing on Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court selection. Currently the Senate is held by Republicans, but 538.com puts the balance of this august chamber at a dead heat.

Twelve states will be voting for a governor, which includes the education-reformed states like Indiana and North Carolina. I would argue the gubernatorial races are the most important posts to set the education agenda that most directly impacts students and teachers.

gubernatorial races are the most important posts to set the education agenda Click To Tweet

Similarly, the state legislatures that work with (or in opposition to) the governors of their state prove to provide a more direct impact on the future of education in the state, which includes funding, the reliance on toxic testing, pensions bills, class sizes, graduation requirements, vouchers, Common Core curriculum, and the ability to collectively bargain.

On the local level, many communities will be voting for their board of education or other components driving the implementation of legislative policies in action. Research has shown that less than 20% of voters are educated enough (or care enough) to learn about these races, with most people often pulling the straight-ticket party line for the candidates their parties chose for them.

The neglect of knowing about the candidates down ballot isn't just ignorant, it's dangerous. Click To Tweet

The problem in our nation is that the office of the President of the United States is put on a pedestal for both admiration and scorn. On one hand, the President is treated as part messiah, ready to save us from ourselves and our problems – most of those that the other guy made, by the way. On the other hand, they’re a washed up celebrity that should be on the National Enquirer, with all their baggage (matters little whether it’s fact or fiction) and braggadocio on full display for all of us to judge.

However easy a trap it is to fall into the belief that only the Presidential race matters, it is a dangerous falsehood. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and their surrogates have made it easy for us to continually lap at the pathos punch. But that can’t be your only source as a citizen. While voting for President might matter the most (and elicit our most excitable emotions), it is far from the only thing you should care about this – or any – election.

Keep in mind your students. Their testing. Your fellow teachers. Your future teachers. Your pension. Your profession. Your lifestyle. Your child’s own future and your grandchildren’s education. Educate yourself on what they candidates think about education, and then vote down ballot.

why-we-need-to-vote-down-ballot

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