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Diane Ravitch Trying to Awaken Voters to the Fact That EVERY Election Matters

August 2, 2016

I receive a daily feed from Diane Ravitch, a prolific blogger-writer who has assumed the leadership role in promoting public education as it existed before the so-called reform movement took over. One point Ms. Ravitch makes repeatedly in her columns is the fact that voters need to pay careful attention to each and every election. To that end, she wrote two posts yesterday on primary elections in KS and MO and a separate op ed article for Common Dreams based on an earlier blog post exhorting Washington State voters to support a pro-public education State Supreme Court judge who is up for re-election and facing a challenge from a candidate supported by the billionaires in that State who want to increase the number of charters.

The more I work with school boards and superintendents as a consultant the more I appreciate the fact that local school boards represent the last bastion of democracy… and the more I see that democracy in our country is in decline. Yesterday’s NYTimes featured an article titled “Only 9% of America Chose Trump or Clinton” and it featured a graphic supporting that finding. If only 60 million— less that 20% of the population— voted in primary elections for President— elections that are clearly consequential and widely publicized— how many will turn out for primary elections in KS and MO in early August and how many will appreciate the consequences of voting a Supreme Court judge in WA out of office? If Vermont’s voter turnouts for school district budgets and school board elections are any indication the answer is fewer than 12% of the registered voters.

The school board members I work with in Vermont are uniformly diligent, committed and idealistic. But to a person they lament the fact that most voters in their town are disengaged with the work they do and wish that more voters would attend meetings and give them feedback on their work. It is discouraging for them to put in countless hours in public meetings, to post reams of information on their web pages, and then have voters turn out at Town Meeting and complain that “we’re in the dark” about issues.

Democracy is not a spectator sport, and it is increasingly complex and difficult to keep up with all of the issues facing leaders at the town, county, State, and federal level. Too often voters seek a quick, easy and cheap solution to these complex problems and that solution, alas, is to turn over the problem to the private sector because “businessmen know how to get things done”. In the coming months I hope that voters will take time to study all the elections because they are all consequential.


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