It’s the most natural instinct in the world. When people gather to make a decision that affects the entire group, someone invariably suggests a vote—and that’s because it works. We don’t turn to the biggest person in the room and ask them to decide. We don’t turn to the person who owns the most land and give them all the power. And we don’t all blindly follow the person whose family has lived longest in the area. Instead, we recognize the collective impact of the decision, and we make it together.
As educators, these have been challenging times. We have been guiding our students through remote learning, scientific debates, political upheaval, climate change, and social and economic justice all while helping them navigate growing up. From pre-K through higher education, we are custodians of our students’ learning, regardless of our job category. We teach them through our example every day. We show them how to treat others, how to navigate change, and how to build resilience.
Political engagement has long been an important part of advocating for public education and public school students and staff. While some NJEA members truly love it, many others tolerate it because they have seen the impact of elections on their school budgets, on their pension and benefits, and on their ability to do their jobs.
Voting is one of the most effective ways to advocate for public education and this year in New Jersey, it is easier than ever. For the first time, New Jersey is offering early voting from Saturday, Oct. 23 through Sunday, Oct. 31 at designated early voting locations.
In addition, New Jerseyans can vote by mail if they register to do so before Oct. 26 by going to vote.nj.gov. Once you receive and vote your mail-in-ballot, you have three options for how to return it. Additional instructions are available at vote.nj.gov.
Finally, on Nov. 2, Election Day, polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Voting for candidates who support public education is so critical to the success of our students and our communities that NJEA has a committee dedicated to meeting with candidates, analyzing their records, and making endorsements. The members who make up NJEA PAC volunteer countless hours of their time to evaluate candidates. Given this information, NJEA members can make their own well-researched decisions about whom to support.
Recently, New Jersey made history. For the third year in a row, New Jersey’s public schools have been named the best in the nation by Education Week. This achievement is the product of our members’ hard work and dedication, collaboration among all stakeholders, and financial support from elected officials.
We are committed to ensuring that every child has access to a great public education and that they are given the support, resources, and guidance to reach their full potential. Now, more than ever, we must support candidates who support our students on issues ranging from universal pre-K, making higher education more affordable, taking a smarter approach to standardized testing, and working with us to help our students after the disruption of the pandemic. We accomplish these things when we have partners in political office—and we create those relationships by discussing with them the issues that matter most to our members.
And, at the end of the day, whether these elected officials are sitting in a board of education meeting, a higher education committee meeting, or the floor of the Statehouse, the matters before them will be resolved by a vote. So let’s make sure our voices are part of that process.