With so much at stake, why do so few of us exercise our right to vote on school budgets, propositions and board of education elections? Do we get too busy; do we forget; do we think our votes will not matter? Whatever our excuses, we need to do our part at the polls.
If we need a little motivation, here are 10 reasons we parents should vote:
1) Our children are important. The outcome of the May 21 school vote will affect every part of our children’s education, from buildings and buses to teachers and field trips. Those opportunities could one day make a difference between our children’s success and failure.
2) Our children’s friends (and our friends’ children) are important. When we think of school, our thoughts naturally focus on our own children. Are they safe? Will they learn what they need? But our children are just a small part of the whole. Our vote affects the classes, programs and activities that serve every child, from the most gifted to those who struggle.
3) Our children, our schools, our responsibility. As parents, we should have a deep interest in the health and effectiveness of our schools. We know the principals and teachers; we should see and understand the things that make a difference in our children’s lives. We cannot entrust our children’s future to others who may not be aware of-or truly care about-what happens at school.
4) Every vote counts. Unlike a national election in which millions of people vote, only a few hundred or a few thousand people turn out for a school vote. One or two votes can decide the outcome of a budget vote or school board election. Imagine the disappointment if our uncast votes would have made the difference!
5) Schools are our society’s future. Our votes shape our schools by balancing the community’s ability to fund its schools with the need to educate our children. We cannot afford to take this lightly. Well-prepared students will successfully compete for jobs in a worldwide workplace and become the doctors and teachers, businesspeople and laborers who will lead our society into the future. On the other hand, students who fail to graduate will likely struggle to find work that pays a livable wage.
6) The board of education points the way. We often understate the importance of board of education elections. Board members represent us as the school leaders who set the policies and develop the budgets that guide our districts. We need to elect qualified people who have a passion for students and education and an understanding of our community’s ability to fund that education.
7) Propositions matter. Schools often put up special propositions asking residents’ permission to purchase school buses, make building improvements or major repairs, or set money aside in special funds for future needs. These are all part of keeping the district running smoothly and safely. Because they often require the district to take on long-term debt, propositions are as important to consider as the budget vote.
8) We vote on our taxes. Regardless of our views on the current state of education, the May 21 vote determines our school taxes for the coming year. We decide what level of programming and services our schools will provide our children and balance that against what we feel we can afford to pay.
9) It is our turn to pass it on. When we were students, someone cared enough to vote each May. As a result, our schools had the resources to give us a sound, basic education. Our schools may have done a superb job-or maybe they could have done better. The responsibility now rests with us to make sure our children have the tools they need to be successful in college and the workplace. It is our turn to vote.
10) It is our civic duty. Our nation was founded on certain principles, one of the most important being the right to vote. When we vote, we stand as individuals to express our beliefs. To willingly surrender that right is to reject our personal freedom.
And as a bonus:
11) We are our children’s role models. Our children may not listen to what we say, but they watch everything we do. In fact, children follow the examples we set, both good and bad. When they see us vote, they learn two important lessons-we consider their education important and we believe in the power of democracy. Our children will in turn value education (and hopefully work hard in school to do their best) and continue the legacy of voting.
Cuyle Rockwell has been a communications specialist with the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service since 2004, and was a major contributor to Parent Central, the long-running print newsletter series preceding Parent Today. Cuyle is an active advocate for the community’s involvement in the business of running a local school district, as well as in the art of educating young people to be successful citizens.