It’s lonely in the middle… I’m going to state up front that I am a fiscal conservative who is an actual advocate for public education. In every general election, I vote a split ticket. In other words, I occupy the middle ground. I believe that in the current economic crisis, the answer is in the middle. Unfortunately, the extreme actors on both sides of the equation seem to be locked in an ego induced death roll. A death roll that produces collateral damage that can be easily measured in the currency of lost student opportunity. And do not kid yourself; the economic repercussions of lost student opportunity can linger for a generation or longer. So where is the middle? The middle recognizes that times are tough. And in tough times, labor has to make some concessions. This is new to educators, because we traded the risk of the private sector (job volatility) for less reward (lower pay). And for the past two years, the education sector has been safer than the private sector. This is no longer the case. Sorry, I don’t like it either. But not liking it doesn’t make it go away. The middle also recognizes that if we want someone to provide a service, we have to pay for the service. Educators, like most public servants, give extra of themselves freely. But they still need to get paid, and trained, and supported. So how does the public pay for the service of educating the next generation? Through taxation. Does the middle like to pay taxes? No. Is the middle willing to pay taxes if it is for the greater good? Yes. Unfortunately, the right has discovered that there is political hay to be made by constantly stemming the flow of taxes. There does not seem to be an understanding that once we quit investing in future (and education is an investment in our collective future) the future becomes a much scarier place. And the left has wrapped itself in the mantle of labor rights. Student centered school operations, which has always been more of a dream than a reality, continues to be crushed between competing adult interests. So here is what I propose:1. Remind labor, that tough times require concessions.2. Remind those in power that under-funding schools is even a worse proposition than over-funding (by the way, I’ve been in education for over 20 years now, I’m still waiting to see a case of system-wide over-funding).3. Cast your votes based on dialogue and leadership, not sound bites.4. Change your litmus test. For me, the critical candidate issue is not immigration, gay marriage, abortion, taxation, etc. The key issue is now public education. This is not a “liberal” position. It actually is the position advocated by John Adams, one of our most conservative founding fathers. He wrote and I believe, “It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives.” Finally, we have to quit having knee-jerk negative reactions to any discussion on either taxation or budget cuts. The taxpayers before us paid for us to go to school, paid for the security we enjoy, and paid for the infrastructure that we still use daily. We turned out pretty good. Now it’s time to stand up and shoulder our part of the load. That’s what we do in the middle. Think. Work. Achieve.Your turn…Follow Sean Cain at