Elections and the Role of School Leaders

The glory of our union is that we are never alone. Our unity is never more empowering than during an election season, and it is never more important. 

Whether your candidates won or lost last night, or even if that has not been decided, our schools will remain the center of our communities and the focus of our lives as educators. Even if the final results end up tipping to one party or another in the next week, or after a December runoff, our common mission will remain the same.

Although our country is divided on which party will best move us forward, it is our schools that are society’s constant; in fact, schools are the bedrock of our communities. As long as we have our schools, we will have an opportunity to become a more civil and constructive society.  

School leaders know how important elections are to public education. At the federal, state and local levels, elections determine a great deal about funding and policy. In parts of our country now, election results will make those things more challenging. They might determine whether early childhood education will continue or whether students in need will have access to free meals. They might signal a shifting of government funds to private schools. Whatever the election outcome, I personally believe that the majority of Americans will continue to support public education for the greater good. And it is you who will continue to lead schools forward, giving hope to your entire community.

This is because, regardless of political party, most Americans have figured out that we can never educate a nation or build and maintain cohesive communities without public schools. What we discovered when the global pandemic closed our buildings was that schools played multiple roles in the life of our country. Not only did they teach students reading and math, but schools also looked after children, fed many who would have gone hungry, made citizens of those whose families had been here for generations or had just arrived, negotiated cultural differences, and built community cohesion and pride.

Americans look up to you as school leaders. A principal can serve almost as a mayor of a small town. Faced with a funding or policy decision that will hurt your children and families, you may have the power to use your quiet strength to temper, if not totally turn around, bad decisions. You can rally public opinion, lobby the government and invite elected officials into your schools. Good school leaders usually have allies on every side of the political spectrum and are adept at turning adversity into advantage for the sake of their kids.

Because we live in a highly polarized country, divisions likely will continue. Yet, despite all the sensationalist predictions of the media and the pollsters, common sense and moderation seem to have prevailed. 

As I walked down to the bird pond Wednesday morning, I wondered what position we might be in now if common sense and moderation had not prevailed. But as I thought, I realized that no matter the circumstances, we still would have been surrounded by allies from our union who inspire us and continue to lead our children toward a better future.