This past Tuesday marked the final public debates between gubernatorial candidates Bill McBride and Jeb Bush, leaving many college students thinking, “Wake me up when we vote for the president.” Yes, electing the new governor of Florida does not exactly draw out droves of students to the voting booths. Well, to be fair, statistics say that nothing draws out droves of students to the voting booths.
But why is it that the body of individuals known as “students” seems to have so little interest in changing the political scene of America? Is it because so much of the debates focus on prescription medicine for the elderly and Medicare? This may be so, but in 2002, we as students actually have an issue that applies directly to us: school.
Undoubtedly, many voters are thoroughly confused by the propagandistic media campaigns run by both candidates. Should we believe McBride who claims that Bush has been a complete failure on making Florida schools better? Or should we believe Jeb who can be seen in his commercials putting up crosswalks, helping old ladies across the street, and talking to a classroom full of first graders who chime, “Thank you Jeb”? It is a very hard decision; after all, those first graders seem to really love Jeb.
Well, with a little bit of research, the facts become fairly apparent. Talk to almost any public school teacher in Florida, and they will be even more apparent. Jeb has failed our schools. His voucher plan, despite being criticized as unconstitutional, has been in the works for years, but has done nothing. After four years in office, Florida’s public school test scores are still among the worst in the nation. There has been little to no improvement in teachers’ salaries, and although federal money is available, the average class size in many public schools is still unacceptable.
To make commercials that claim that he has lived up to even the least of his promises, especially those to make schools better is, frankly, insulting to any intelligent voter. Bush had his chance and he did nothing with it. As students, we must do everything we can to make sure that a man with such a terrible record on schools (not to mention the environment, crime, prison sentences for drug offenders, etc) does not get re-elected to another term in which he can break more promises.
Of course, questions of McBride’s credibility and qualifications can be raised, and rightly so. He is a man who has been relatively untested in a political arena, and it is not possible to say exactly what he will do if elected governor. However, he has plans to tax the sale of cigarettes and use a large portion of the money to augment teachers’ salaries. He also has promised to promote smart growth and preservation efforts in the Everglades (still, much to the chagrin of Greenpeace, neither candidate has a plan for clean energy as of yet). These are just a few of McBride’s proposed changes in the government of Florida that students should feel deep concern about.
Again, there is no way to know if McBride will keep his promises unless we elect him. But, we do know one thing that should help in the decision: Bush has not kept his promises. Electing Bill McBride as governor of Florida may end in failure, but electing Bush already has. So go out and vote, and when you do, remember that prophetic saying that Jeb’s brother just couldn’t seem to get right during that blunder of a speech in Tennessee (it will be printed in its correct version here), “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”