It’s hard to believe the presidential election is still a year away. So far, educators have been pretty bruised by the political grandstanding of the presidential aspirants. A President Christie, for instance, would greet teachers unions with a “punch in the face,” while a President Kasich would address the challenges of education by shutting down all the “woe is me” faculty lounges. To be fair, these are the most high-profile education reform agendas thus far floated in the campaign to lead the free world. What is most shocking is that education has not been made a high-priority item like climate change or immigration by any candidate.  Where do all these candidates stand in providing adequate support and funding for our public schools? Yet there are quieter but no less pernicious agendas to push vouchers, promote the unfettered spread of charter schools, and otherwise advance an agenda driven more by a profit than an educational motive that transcends party affiliation.

The content of these agendas is disturbing enough. But even more disturbing is how poorly these policymakers understand the enterprise of public education—and how little the voices of real, live educators are heard in response to their absurdity.

Fortunately, educators have one thing policymakers can only attempt to capture during a campaign season: credibility. A 2014 poll by the Center for American Progress, Washington, D.C., asked the American public who they trust in speaking on education. Topping the list were teachers (88 percent) and principals (82 percent), followed distantly by central office staffers, unions, school boards, and the various voices often heard in education conversations.

Principals, the public trusts your voice. All you need to do is use it to tell your school’s story and what policies look like when they arrive at your school. Late last month, a number of principals took full advantage of the opportunity while being shadowed by high-ranking officials at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) during National Principals Month. To their credit, the staffers did what too few policymakers do-take the time to get into schools and learn. While not every principal will get a visit from the ED, every day presents an opportunity to remind the public of the purpose and needs of the work you do each day. Especially during the coming year, when heightened rhetoric far surpasses reason, amplifying your voice will be all the more important.

So speak up. Your community is listening.  

JoAnn Bartoletti
Executive Director, NASSP