By TEA Executive Director Carolyn Crowder
When the calendar page turns to August, there really isn’t much time for anything besides those last-minute preparations for the start of your new school year - yet here we are asking you to “Go vote!” on August 2. This is why the early voting period in Tennessee is a life-saver!
Think of early voting, which runs July 13-28 for the primary election, as the Amazon Prime of Election Day.
First, it’s convenient. While maybe not quite as convenient as just opening your Amazon app, most election commissions schedule early voting at a variety of different locations around the county. Without the Election Day restrictions of being assigned a voting location, you can pick the early voting site that is closest to you or along your route as you are running Saturday morning errands.
Next, it’s fast. Just like Amazon Prime helps you avoid the back-to-school rush on school supplies, early voting lets you skip the unpredictable Election Day lines. You can get in and out quickly to cast your vote for candidates who will work hard for our students and public schools.
Just like with Amazon, your order is quickly processed. Instead of a brown box with that Amazon smile on it, you get a new elected official in a few days - or front-runner candidate in the general election in November. If we do our part as public education advocates, the election winners announced on August 2 will be supporters of public education. This means not only taking the time to vote, but making an effort to get friends, family and coworkers who believe in great public schools to vote, too.
Last, if you are unsatisfied with the results, there is a solid return policy in place. It is on us to hold our elected officials accountable and ensure the best interests of our students, our schools and our profession remain a top priority for them. This is not a one-and-done project. Voting for friends of education is just the first step, and what comes next is equally important.
Our elected leaders at all levels of government need to hear from educators back home - the real experts on what our children need to succeed. Your feedback and guidance are critical to building and sustaining great public schools for all children. Politicians need to know you are paying attention and that you are willing to use that return policy - voting them out of office in the next election - if they do not do right by our students.
I know so much is asked of you, not just at the start of a school year, but throughout the year. I know political advocacy can feel like just one more thing to add to your already too long to-do list. I also know that it is critically important for our students, our local neighborhood schools and this profession that we love.
Elected officials hold the power to vote on new education policy, but we hold the power to vote them into those positions. We need to own that power and wield it in a way that lifts all students and empowers all teachers to do their very best.
So what are you waiting for? Look up your local election commission now and make plans for an Amazon Prime-like early voting stop.