Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Endorsement Alert: New Hampshire's Democratic Bench


New Hampshire's state legislature in probably the most democratic in the country. In a state with 1,359,711 people, the state House has 400 members, each one representing about, on average, 3,300 residents. Right now there are 233 Democrats and 165 Republicans and 1 independent. The members serve for 2 years-- and they get $200 for their term.

The 25th district (Rockingham County) is in northern Portsmouth. In both 2016 and 2020 the district was Bernie country in the primary and then voted for Hillary in the general. It's half commercial and half residential, is a hub for regional tourism and is less than a mile from the border with Maine. Conservative Democrat Laura Pantelakos has been in office since 1978, and has, for example, consistently voted No on cannabis legalization bills, both in the House and as a member of the criminal justice committee, even though her constituents voted Yes. She has also missed key votes at the State House on issues such as prohibiting firearms on school property and the establishment of a student debt relief program for the state. That last point appears to be what drew her an opponent, Robin Vogt this cycle.

Goal ThermometerVogt, a special ed teacher is a reformist and progressive. He is an outspoken supporter of Medicare For All, a Green New Deal to fight against climate change and create sustainable jobs, and to increase funding for New Hampshire's public education system. Blue America endorsed him today. "If we are to move the Granite State forward towards true progress," he told us in a written statement, "then it must start at the grassroots level. The people of my District and this county are looking for something that can give them hope, and a representative who is not afraid to sit at the kitchen table to develop real solutions for those who call Portsmouth home. This campaign is built on the foundation that there are diverse voices who have been trying to call out, but have been met quickly by the status-quo practices of the past that silence them. We cannot continue to fight for the things we need unless our local legislators begin to speak up for those who have gone silent, and wish to see progressive action at the state level. My dedication is to the people of my community, and this campaign is ready to march in the streets and bring this fight to the State House in Concord." Below is a guest post he wrote about one of the issues that motivates him most, public education. If you like what he has to say, please consider clicking on the Blue America state legislative thermometer above and contributing what you can.

Ready To Fight For Progressive Public Education
-by Robin Vogt

Every year, uncertainties about making a living wage or being able to afford health insurance become a reality for our families and educators. Every year, not knowing whether a backpack or basic school supplies can be bought for the first day of school. Education has always taken the backseat in New Hampshire when it comes to the development of our next generation. Outdated classrooms and a curriculum that fails to teach or show the realities of the world surrounds young minds of all abilities. Teachers who question the reliability of the education being provided one quarter, are shown the door the next because of the current system. Our educators and support staff work hard every single day for the simple cause of teaching our young learners. Low wages, those poor insurance options and vast uncertainties about their jobs future drives the public education system across this country, and here in New Hampshire, it is no different. Consistently put to the table on the State and local level; cuts to our special education departments and programs, while pushing investments into company-built curriculum that fail to hit the major life skills that learners need to be successful. These are the consistent decisions being made that are only setting our public education system back, not pushing it forward.

Our current education system creates stresses for educators and families across the state, and for many in the small port city that I call home. As a special education paraeducator for 10 years, I have worked 1:1 with students who require IEP and/or 504 accommodations. Students who are passionate about being at school, and working with their peers every single day. Even with that driving force inside our learners to work hard and be the best individual they can be, the public education system continues to be the face of continual cuts and lack of respect by our legislature. The students 100% sometimes only seem to account for 10% when it comes down to hitting standards, learning the life skills necessary to be independently successful, and accurately showcasing how amazing of human beings they truly are. As I sat in the classroom during my 4th year as a special education paraeducator, and I saw a student struggle to hit the standards being presented. I saw students who were independently making strides beyond their IEPs, but consistently falling short when it came to meeting the standards outlined by the State of New Hampshire. I was once that student too, trying to figure out why things were not adding up, and now today I realize why.

It was not until I left the public school system as a student that I began to see and understand what was truly happening behind the scenes. Curriculum standards that were driven by company-built programs, some who have never worked in the classroom before or understand how an educator teaches his or her students the skills necessary to graduate. The way school boards, local governments and our state legislature under-funded public education and our classrooms. For the last 4 years, I have been Co President of my schools union under the National Education Association - New Hampshire, and have fought for the very things that were consistently put on the chopping block. The funding to provide our educators and all students the quality of education that they deserve. That is the same fight that I am ready to bring for Rockingham District 25, Ward 1 to the State House in Concord. All the experiences working with families, educators and administrators to find the best pathway to a well-funded, high quality public education for all students in New Hampshire. I will work alongside our next Governor and state legislators to develop true education reform that properly funds our public schools not just in Portsmouth, but across the state. Continue to fight for our critical special education programs and advocate for a teacher-built curriculum that provides necessary federally protected services to our students who need it most, and ensures that the inclusive classroom moves forward with purpose and pride. Our diverse families who send their children to our schools to learn need to be heard, and the education system that will teach our students the life skills necessary to be successful must take priority in the halls of the New Hampshire State House.

It is the combined voices of my neighborhood, city and state that will continue to educate and create progress, not the select few and the status-quo practices of the past. It’s time that Portsmouth has a State Representative that will take on these challenges in public education that lie ahead, and fight for their solutions every single day.

I am ready to continue the fight for a progressive public education for all students. I am that candidate to help bring true change here in the Granite State.

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