Still undecided about the midterms? Here's a candidate: public education.
If you bleed crimson conservatism...
If you breathe liberated sky-blue air...
...this post is not for you.
Most likely nothing I write will convince you to steer down a path that conflicts with your republican or democratic ideals.
And that's okay because, well, that's the beauty of democracy.
We can disagree and still be okay.
But, for those mysterious members of "The Undecided" out there, let's talk.
As election day arrives on Tuesday, if you stroll into the poll with any doubts about which way you'd like to vote, let me help you avoid that awkward mind-trap.
Vote for public education.
Let me give you a few reasons on why public education is a solid use of your vote, and then I'll direct you to a great resource that explains how you can accomplish such a vote.
Reason #1: Public education is a high-skill, high-knowledge profession that meaningfully impacts society.
If you picture this when you think of school:
Yeah, school doesn't look like this any more.
You are much more likely to find something that looks like this:
And the method of instruction and design of the classrooms aren't the only things that have changed.
The level instruction and the expected learning outcomes for students are drastically more rigorous today than they were even just fifteen years ago.
In just the past fifteen years, Texas students have moved from answering questions like this on an Exit Level TAAS Test (11th grade):
...to today, where 9th grade students (not 11th grade) are expected to answer questions like this:
In the 8th grade, students were once "challenged" by questions such as this on their state science tests:
Today, 8th grade students are expected to work through this:
The education profession of today requires teachers and administrators to have a firm grasp of a vast amount of content knowledge, classroom management skills, pedagogical fortitude, data analysis abilities, and adeptness with technology in order to get students to the increased levels of rigor required by modern day assessments.
Supporting teachers by voting for representatives that properly fund public schools increases the chance that educators will have the training and resources they need to meet these more rigorous expectations.
Reason #2: The education profession has never been more stressful, more dangerous, and more litigious.
From the fear of every action getting plastered across social media to legitimate concerns about violence in the classroom, teaching today is far removed from the idea that the wooden paddle hanging in the principal's office can solve most classroom disruptions.
From instances such as this:
...to the threat of weapons in the classroom (even at the elementary level), the stresses of teaching in today's schools are enormous.
Voting to support public schools will increase the likelihood that districts will have the technology, building structures, and safety equipment that are needed to ensure a safe learning environment for both students and teachers.
Reason #3: For Texas public schools, the financial burden has slowly shifted from the state to local citizens and the federal government.
According to the most recent summarized financial data from the Texas Education Agency, local taxes covered over 6% more of the total funding costs for public schools in 2017 than they did in 2000. During the same time frame, state funds (as a percentage of total funds for public education) dropped almost 4.5%.
While a 6.3% increase may not seem like a big deal, the total increase in local tax revenue is, well, a big deal.
Voting for public education can help guarantee that our representatives are making solid choices when it comes to how and where we spend tax dollars.
Reason #4: Teachers have never felt more under-valued then right now.
This past year has made it clear that teachers across the nation feel unappreciated. With major strikes in five different states this year alone and more potentially planned for the coming year, teachers have obviously reached a breaking point.
And is it really a surprise that they feel this way?
They're doing more with less in environments that are sometimes less than optimal.
And they know it.
Using your vote to support public education can show teachers that you respect what they do for our kids.
So, how do you vote for public education?
Well, in Texas, this is actually quite easy. Texans for Public Education---an organization that advocates for public schools, students, and teachers---has organized a block vote that includes their recommendations for who to vote for if you would like to vote for representatives that are "friendly" to public education.
If you review their block vote quicksheet, you will notice that this vote spans both major parties.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, if you're committed to an "all red" or "all blue" Texas, obviously this sort of vote isn't for you.
But for those who think there are things worth voting for that are more important than a donkey or an elephant, Tuesday is a great day to break out of the herd mentality and vote for something meaningful.
Vote for our kids.