I will never forget the day I became a U.S. citizen: November 16, 1993. My dad had moved us to the United States on a work visa and we had to wait a decade to finally become citizens. To some, the ceremony may have looked a little corny, as we all raised our right hands and pledged allegiance to our new country. But for me, it was one of the most exciting days of my life. It meant I could finally—at the age of 24—vote!
To this day, I make a point of not only going to my local high school to vote, but also proudly wearing the “I voted” sticker out of the polling place. I’ve also done my share of canvassing for various candidates in the weeks leading up to elections. And, of course, I work every day to influence the policy direction of our country.
Perhaps it’s because I came from a country, Iran, where people’s right to vote isn’t always taken seriously, and where some leaders aren’t chosen by the people, but I find it shocking that many people born in the United States don’t understand or appreciate this great privilege. I’m keenly aware of the struggles many Americans went through to ensure that their votes count.
These struggles continue in too many places. And yet many people don’t think their vote matters. Even in the 2018 mid-term elections, when political passions were very high, turnout was just 53.4%. Only two-thirds of Americans report even being registered to vote. Fully one-third of Americans have no voice in our political system.
The education reform community cannot be a silent majority. We have to be a loud majority! We have to get registered and get out to vote. Our movement’s future depends on our ability to elect public officials who appreciate and understand the value of charter schools. We can talk all we want about the influence of money in politics or the sway that some special interests have, but what matters most to politicians is votes. The teachers’ unions are a threat to charter schools because of their big spending, for sure, but they’re a bigger threat because they turn out the vote.
We have 3.2 million charter school families in this country, and hundreds of thousands of charter school teachers. We need every one of these parents, grandparents, guardians, aunts, uncles, teachers and students who are 18 or older to vote!
Many people think it’s only worthwhile to vote in presidential elections, or maybe for Congress and governor. But the reality is that we can’t simply rely on presidents and a handful of state elected officials to help pass charter laws and fund them. Education is inherently a local issue, and it’s mayors, council members, state legislators and school board members who have a major influence on whether charter schools can open, grow and receive the funding and facilities they need to serve the students who want to attend them.
If we want to shape public perception about our schools and bring lasting change to our communities, we need to vote, and we need to talk about our votes. We need to make it clear that we’re voting for people who recognize the importance of public charter schools. We need to support the people who stand with us to defend charter schools, and we need to mobilize to let the anti-charter politicians know that they can’t win by attacking our schools, our students and our teachers.
Register to Vote Today
The first step in making this happen is to register to vote. This year, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is partnering with National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, September 24, to make registering to vote easy. To participate, check your voter registration status, learn more about the upcoming elections in your area and—of course—register to vote!
Don’t let our opponents put limits on our students. Don’t let your voices go unheard in the most important debate of our time. Voting is a precious right that only has power if we exercise it. Register today and vote on November 5th!