You may have heard that there’s an election coming up.
With only a couple of days left until polls close, my Facebook feed is filled with articles about Trump, Hillary, and not much else. Which makes sense — when it comes to education, I know that the president will have great power to lead the Department of Education and set a nationwide policy agenda.
But when I think about my students, I also know that the policies that most directly affect their lives will actually be decided not by the president, but by officials at the state and local level.
Take this example: My home state of Illinois is currently the most regressive state in the country when it comes to funding for education. But creating more equitable school funding will take committed state senators and representatives — not presidents.
Across the country, voters will vote on down ballot candidates and referendums with huge implications for our schools. In Colorado, voters will elect members of the University Board of Regents, who will set tuition levels and hire the University of Colorado president. In Massachusetts, voters will choose whether to lift the cap on charter schools. In California, there are over 1,300 candidates running for school board and another 183 running for boards of community colleges.
And beyond schools, local elected officials make decisions that shape our students’ lives every day, establishing policies around affordable housing, transportation, criminal justice and mental health.
In spite of all this, over 30% of voters will show up on Election Day and fail to complete their ballot. An even higher number will show up and guess — based on candidates’ names, gender or even ballot position — when they get to lower-level offices. Researchers from the University of Virginia have estimated that candidates listed first on the ballot receive up to 5% more votes.
Despite being a politically engaged person, I’ve guessed on my ballot, too. That’s why I co-founded BallotReady, a nonpartisan voter guide to every race and referendum on the ballot.
We’re currently live in 10 states, providing endorsements, issue stances, and experience for candidates up and down the ballot. Our goal is to create a democracy where people can vote informed on their entire ballot.
If you don’t live in a state where we’re currently active, there are many other resources, including state voter guides, bar association recommendations, and education organization endorsements, that can give you the information you need to be an informed voter.
This election, I’m committing to turning out to vote — and to voting informed on my entire ballot.
What does your ballot look like? Find out at BallotReady.org.