Legislative report submitted by UEA Advanced Policy Ambassador Sarah Jones, instructional coach at Legacy Jr. High School in the Davis School District
I was in a class at the University of Utah when Dr. Lawrence Parker said, “Politics is who gets what.” His statement was a response to those who feel the political process is inaccessible, unimportant, or too messy. I realized that while I haven’t always been politically engaged, I’ve always cared about ‘who gets what’ and I do want a say in how our public resources are spent.
As teachers, we see student needs first-hand. We often understand best which students need additional instruction, which students need assistance with housing and food, and which students need support from the school counselor. We know when our schools are understaffed, our class sizes too large and when buildings aren’t well maintained. If we, as teachers, aren’t engaged at all in the political process – literally decisions about who gets what – then those needs may be misunderstood and unaddressed. While some may say that teachers should leave politics to the politicians, the truth is that teachers have a wealth of knowledge about who needs what and it’s time for teachers throughout the state to share this information with their elected officials.
Luckily, reaching out to our elected officials is easy. They are generally willing to listen and learn from their constituents. The small amount of time I’ve invested in learning how to navigate the Utah legislative website and learning how to track bills has empowered me to contact my representatives about specific bills they will be voting on. Additionally, the excellent UEA Legislative Team does an amazing job of both advocating for Utah education but also keeping us as UEA members informed. If you’ve not signed up for the e-newsletter, sign up today!
I understand the barriers to participating in our local political process. Teaching is demanding and takes up large amounts of our time. But this is exactly why our participation in the political process is so essential! No one knows better than we do how teacher burn-out and understaffed schools are affecting our students. The bottom line is that teacher voices are essential for good political decisions to be made, so get involved and speak up. Remember, politics is who gets what, and teachers are essential contributors in political conversation.