Jun 21, 2011

Student: Young Voters Look At The Issues, Not The Party Or Politician

Justin Schulze studies International Development and Economics as an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University. He is currently an intern at StudentsFirst. Justin also is as an intern for KIPP Journey Academy in Columbus, Ohio. Justin has volunteered and traveled in Costa Rica and Peru and conducted research in Ecuador and Bolivia. He is an active member of Amnesty International.

As a college student in Columbus, Ohio, I've seen firsthand the intense political polarization gripping my state. The governor and fellow Republican lawmakers have proposed controversial policies regarding the budget, the economy, and spending. Democrats have responded with protest marches. With battle lines clearly drawn, it seems Ohio citizens are being forced to answer the question: Are you with the current administration, or are you against it? To tell you the truth, however, I'm neither.

I'm part of a new generation of young people whose beliefs cannot be limited to the political platform of one party or one governor. On some issues, we're "conservative." On others, we're "liberal." Personally, I disagree with Governor Kasich and Republican legislators on a number of issues. For example, I am a fervent opponent of Ohio's death penalty. This year, however, the governor has overseen several executions, and more are scheduled. On the death penalty, I think the governor is just plain wrong, and I let him know by writing him letters, calling his office, and joining in protests.

When it comes to reforming education in Ohio, though, I believe the governor has hit the mark. Like him, I'm excited to bring young, energetic teachers to our state through programs like Teach for America. Like him, I think we need to end the archaic "last In, first Out" policy that lays off teachers based on seniority rather than performance. Like him, I believe our teachers need to be measured with a robust, objective evaluation system that rewards educators who consistently outperform their peers. On all of these points, I agree wholeheartedly with the governor, and I support his proposed reform measures as vigorously as I oppose his position the death penalty.

Let's be honest: politicians are unlikely to ever represent our opinion on every issue. But let's not let political divisions keep us from supporting politicians on the issues in which we do agree, like reforming public education in Ohio. For young Democrats today, supporting a Republican lawmaker (or vice versa) on education reform does not make him or her a sellout. Rather, young people willing to cross party lines to support meaningful reform to improve educational outcomes for our students represents the best, not the worst, of civic engagement.

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