Vote in 2020. Children Deserve to Know That You Care About Them.

I’m from Lansing. I grew up in a school district that dealt with federal funding decreases by closing schools with what felt like a ferocity. What is happening to the Lansing School District is happening all over the country. Slowly but surely, public schools are becoming soulless buildings of what once was.

When I was a teenager, I took pride in surviving conditions that other kids fled from once high school approached. My friends and I scoffed at all the kids that had parents with enough money to go to East Lansing or Okemos. We were not fair-weather students, we were Lansing kids. We went to schools the Lansing State Journal deemed dangerous and scum. I didn’t care about test scores. I cared that Lansing Eastern High School was the underdog.

When our principal got the entire junior class together in an auditorium to tell us that if we didn’t get our test scores up then we would possibly get taken over by an emergency manager, it was scary. Putting the pressure of an emergency manager on the backs of 16-year-olds was a lot, but for kids at Eastern? It was just another obstacle. I can’t remember what I learned besides test prep that year. When the class of 2016 upped our standardized test scores, I thought this was a perfect f*** you to the government. Teachers, staff, and students ducked an emergency manager taking over. It was like riding a high you couldn’t possibly come down from.

If you went to Eastern, you were programmed to embrace all the doubts that outsiders have of you. You constantly hear about how you underperform, never about your feats. Even when you do what is asked of you, you still have to sacrifice something. To Lansing Eastern High School students, it was a building. It was their school. The new building does not hold all the students the old one once did. To some students, they just relocated to the new building. To others, they lost a building that kept them together with their friends and teachers.

Did you know that Lansing Eastern High School scored 2/10 according to GreatSchools? I chuckled the moment I heard that statistic. J.W. Sexton scored a 1/10 and Everett High School scored 3/10. The government loves to measure students based on test scores but never examines how the cuts to funding fundamentally fail them. To the government, we were never kids, but walking reasons why schools need to pick themselves up by bootstraps that are not even there. In the 2015-16 year alone, the United States witnessed a total of 1,160 school closings.

Ever since the Supreme Court case, San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, the United States Supreme Court set a precedent. Every child has a right to an education. Education? It doesn’t have to be equal. Kids in an underfunded city school don’t have to have the same education as the kids in a wealthier suburban school. Rural schools aren’t entitled to an equitable education. In fact, the “Equal Protection Clause does not require absolute equality.” It becomes more apparent that it is always on the backs of children that our policy crumbles and fails. Americans that have no complete absolute rights or agency outside the confines of adults are the ones who suffer most as a result of the country’s shortcomings.

It is their big eyes and hopeful smiles that are ultimately scorned when the United States decides it wants nuclear war funding more than providing education to elementary kids. It is all the kids under 18 that take to Board meetings to advocate for their schools. It is the children at elementary schools that cry clutching their parents when it was announced that their elementary school won’t be coming back for the new school year.

I cannot think of a better reason to vote in the upcoming 2020 election. You may feel defeated by Trump. You may think that there is no reason to save a country so committed to destroying its own democracy. I think that it is because of this feeling you have that you must stand up. You must stand up for all the children in schools across the nation who can’t. Who do not have a vote in their futures. Who have been disproportionately affected by this President’s attack on public schools. You must take a stand, if not for yourself than for the population in the United States who are afforded no such luxury of a vote. Who are deemed too young to vote, yet their lives in school have been politicized since they can remember. I was 16 years old, helping to hold up the outcome of an entire high school. I didn’t have a vote in the United States yet, but I had felt all the implications of its failed policy.