Recently, I had the honor to serve as a policy ambassador for UEA. Through this experience, I learned a lot about the legislative process, and I learned a lot about our legislators. As ambassadors, we spent a Friday on the Hill observing our elected representatives at work. Initially, I didn’t think my presence would have a lot of impact. However, there is certainly one thing that has stuck with me in the days following: Legislators have an enormous responsibility to do everything, but they can’t possibly know everything.
Our representatives do their best to learn what they can about the issues facing our state, but because there are so many issues to learn about, their knowledge is often a mile wide and an inch deep. This is not a criticism or an indictment of the legislators. It’s a call to action for teachers.
While I’m not naïve about the need for constituent involvement; I am renewed in my understanding of its importance. The people in my area elected a homebuilder and a business owner to represent them in the House and Senate. These men are accomplished in their respective fields. They care about their community. However, they are not educators. They do not spend their time in public schools. They do not see the challenges we face in the classroom. Their personal success does not mean they know what is right for public education. I do believe that they want to do what is best for our schools, but they can only respond to what they’re being told.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people with alternate agendas telling our representatives what is happening. There are the voices of a vocal minority telling our representatives about the things they perceive in the classroom in order to promote a singular worldview. There are voices from outside our state telling our representatives about things happening in classrooms around the country in order to use Utah as a pawn to promote a national agenda. There are voices who will benefit financially from telling our representatives about the things they think should be happening in our classrooms.
What our representatives need—what our children need—are the voices of those in the classroom, our classrooms. A representative can only do their best with the information they have. If they don’t have our voice in their ear, they can’t know what is right for public education. If they don’t have our voice in their ear, they can’t see the troubles that Utah students are facing. If they don’t have our voice in their ear, they cannot celebrate the successes of Utah’s children. If they don’t have our voice in their ear, they cannot support the educators who do know what is going on in our classrooms—Utah’s classrooms.
While I may not always agree with my elected officials, it is my job to hold them accountable for their actions; it is my job to make them aware of the needs our communities have. This happens at the ballot box, yes, but it also happens when I raise my voice. As educators, we need to have our voices heard at every step of the process.
Our representatives want what’s best for public education in Utah.
Our representatives need us to tell them what is best for public education in Utah.
Jason Jones, M. Ed.
English Teacher, Davis School District