Reelection of President Obama a Victory for Public Education and Students
By Laila Hirschfeld and Tim Walker
America’s students were big winners across the United States on Tuesday, as voters took to the polls and delivered a clear message: we value public education, workers’ rights, health care, women’s rights and a strong middle class. In addition to handing President Obama a second term, voters elected friends of education to every level of government and rejected ballot measures that attacked educators and public education.
Obama won a resounding victory, rolling up 303 electoral votes (Florida had yet to be called by Wednesday morning, although the president is holding a lead there) and more than 50 percent of the popular vote.
“President Obama’s re-election is a victory for students and their educators,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Americans have spoken and they’ve chosen to continue moving forward.”
In his victory speech, President Obama vowed to continue the fight to give every citizen a fair and decent shot at the American Dream.
“Despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future,” Obama said. “We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers, a country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all the good jobs and new businesses that follow.”
Over the past four years, the Obama Administration fought to keep class sizes small, and protected more than 400,000 educator jobs. He also doubled investment in scholarships and financial aid so more middle and working-class families can realize the dream of a college education.
“Throughout the campaign, the President pledged to invest in education—especially in early childhood education—and to make higher education more affordable,” said Van Roekel. “He and his congressional and gubernatorial colleagues also promised to protect women’s rights and rebuild the middle class from the inside out—and that obviously resonated with voters, especially educators.”
In addition to President Obama’s reelection, friends of education were elected in key Senate races across the country. Elizabeth Warren triumphed over Scott Brown in Massachusetts and Tim Kaine defeated George Allen in Virginia. In Ohio and Wisconsin, where worker’s rights issues have ignited political firestorms over the past two years, voters sent clear message to anti-union, anti-public education forces by reelecting Sherrod Brown and electing Tammy Baldwin, respectively.
In addition to the Senate victories, friends of public education are also celebrating a gubernatorial victory in New Hampshire, as well as gains in state legislatures throughout the United States and several ballot measure successes. A major ballot victory came in California, where voters banded together to pass Proposition 30, which helps the state avert drastic cuts to the state’s education system with an increase on personal income taxes on high-income taxpayers and a modest hike in the sales tax.
“What this says is that voters were paying attention,” said Van Roekel. “Instead of standing by and watching their rights being trampled on in their states, voters from all backgrounds stood up and said, ‘my family is important, too.’ It will be our job to remind other lawmakers of this significant mandate.”
Educators—74 percent of whom are women—played a key role in these victories. NEA members live in every state, in every Congressional district, and in every precinct, and one in every 100 voters is a NEA member. NEA was the first union to endorse President Obama for a second term, and nearly 500,000 NEA members signed up in some way to be involved in the Obama For America campaign.
“From day one, NEA members have supported President Obama and his vision for America and public education. And over the past two years, they worked tirelessly on behalf of America’s public school children,” said Van Roekel. “I’m confident our three million members will continue to work with the President and other elected officials to fix the financial mess we inherited while protecting core American values like public education, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.”