The Real Action on Education Happens When You #VoteLocal

Oct 22, 2020 12:00:00 AM


Every four years, millions of teachers are, once again, disappointed and disillusioned when education gets the short end of the stick. Nothing more than a passing sound bite. Maybe an abstract promise or two. 

Frankly, I’m at a point where I don’t trust any presidential candidate. [pullquote position="right"]Neither candidate has the answers that could fix our broken education system.[/pullquote] None of them have the answer to a system that severely underpays teachers and disenfranchises Black, Latinx and Indigenous students of color.

Rather than expend our energy complaining about the persistent disrespect that we teachers receive in this country, I want us to focus collectively on our current political reality. At this point, we all should have a general understanding of each presidential candidate’s education plan but, for those who are totally oblivious to what’s happening, here’s a brief overview: 

  • Joe Biden wants to make historically Black colleges and universities, and public colleges that predominantly serve students of color tuition free for families earning less than $125,000 annually. He’s also calling for a universal prekindergarten program, increased wages for teachers, an increase in the number of health professionals (i.e. counselors, psychologically, social workers, doctors, etc.) in our schools, and strict gun laws to protect students. 
  • Donald Trump is pushing for school choice, increased access to charter schools, and advocating for “patriotic education” in all schools as a direct response to the teaching of systemic racism, which he has described as “a form of child abuse.” Earlier this year, he already announced plans to make budget cuts to the Education Department, which includes ending federal student loan forgiveness programs. 

Biden’s education plan sounds promising on its face, but beyond the flowery, fluffy language, we’re left to wonder how, exactly, he intends to follow through on these big promises. What specific action steps will he take? 

Trump’s education plan makes it crystal clear that, while he is a proponent of school choice, he has every intention to keep teachers in a perpetual state of financial hardship. Additionally, his policies suggest a blatant disregard for Black life.

In the end, neither presidential candidate is THE solution for teachers and students, but maybe one will provide a gateway to the solution. And that gateway will give us a stronger position to continually push for our demands to be met. [pullquote]Voting is only the beginning of making our voices heard, but now’s the time to muster our energy and get out the vote.[/pullquote]

Bring The Same Energy to Local Elections

We should also bring the same voting energy to our local elections, which have a more direct impact on our livelihood. As American citizens, it is our responsibility to make our votes count, and that includes holding our elected officials accountable every chance we get.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about politics, it’s that no elected official gets the benefit of the doubt! Here’s what you can do to keep your elected officials honest:

  • Write letters to your elected officials expressing your concerns. You can call or email them directly! Leave a voicemail if necessary. 
  • Many elected officials are active on social media (especially Twitter).  Voice your concerns to them there!
  • Stay informed about the issues. As the saying goes, “Knowledge is power!”

I’ll close with this saying … your vote may not fix your car but it will get you the parts to fix it! On the other hand, if you decide to waste your vote, good luck finding a mechanic!

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah is the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, LLC., an independent educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services globally to educators who desire to enhance their instructional practices and reach their utmost potential in the classroom. He is the author of two books, "Shaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the Teacher in You" and his latest, "From Inaction to 'In Action': Creating a New Normal for Urban Educators". Throughout his 14-year career as a middle school math educator, author, and entrepreneur, Kwame has been on a personal mission to uplift and empower educators who are committed to reversing the ills of the public education system in America and around the world. As a staunch ambassador and advocate for teacher empowerment, Kwame has spoken at numerous national education conferences and worked diligently to support the recruitment and retention of teachers of color in the education system. In January 2019, he was one of 35 Massachusetts teachers of color chosen by Commissioner Jeff Riley to be in the inaugural cohort of the InSPIRED (In-Service Professionals Increasing Racial and Ethnic Diversity) Fellowship, an initiative organized by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for veteran teachers of color to recruit students of color at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels to teach in targeted districts within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As an InSPIRED Teaching Fellow, Kwame facilitated professional development workshops for aspiring teachers at universities such as Boston College, UMass Boston, and Worcester State University and has served as a guest speaker for non-profit teacher pipeline programs such as Generation Teach and Worcester Public Schools’ Future Teachers Academy. A proud graduate of Temple University, Kwame holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a master's degree in education. He was honored as the 2019 National Member of the Year by Black Educators Rock, Inc. for his unwavering commitment to the advancement of the teacher profession.

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