Educators from every corner of the nation are participating in this election, inspired to action by their students and concern for the future of public education and the well-being of the middle class.
It’s people like Traci Arway, Ohio mother of three and special education teacher who has made nearly 500 phone calls. Brittany Jones, Virginia graduate education student and full-time preschool teacher who has spent multiple weekends doing door-to-door canvassing. There’s Eliza Hamrick, a Colorado high school teacher who has logged more than 150 hours walking and talking to voters on behalf of education-friendly candidates. Latwala Dixon, a Florida middle school teacher who has taken her new voter registration skills and put them to use on family, friends and strangers alike. And Robert Gaines III, a special education paraprofessional from Michigan who drove 10 hours each way to Washington, D.C., to sharpen his organizing skills in order to help his community overcome voting barriers.
Arway, Jones, Hamrick, Dixon, and Gaines are dedicated members of an army of education activists nationwide who are determined to make an imprint this election.
This year, nearly 175,000 National Education Association members are involved in their neighborhoods, towns and states.
Ohio alone, which is increasingly likely to determine the outcome of the presidential race, has nearly 3,500 educator volunteers in 87 of the state’s 88 counties. The numbers are similar in other presidential battleground states; there are volunteers in 87 of 95 counties in Virginia, 10 of 10 in New Hampshire, 71 of 72 in Wisconsin, and 65 of 67 in Pennsylvania.
While the numbers are impressive, the large number of too-close-to-call races — beginning with the presidential election — suggest every single volunteer contact with voters and every vote will be critical. Adding an extra dose of uncertainty to the mix are the effect new restrictive voter laws in more than two dozen states will have on student, Latino and black voters.
At the top of the ballot are President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The differences in the candidates’ visions are as stark as the stakes in their race are high.