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November 4, 2008. If you’re anything like me, chances are you’re waiting for this day with bated breath. But what about November 6, 2007—an election that is taking place not next year but next week? Back in my hometown, the local Democrats have spent close to a million dollars to regain control of the school board and reinforce their majority in the township board of commissioners. But this is an off-off year election, and voter turn out is predicted to be 20% at best.

When asked, I say I’m from Philadelphia. That’s because few outside of the area know anything at all about Lower Merion, the township adjacent to a city nearly 50 times its size. Politically, that puts me in Pennsylvania’s 6th U.S. congressional district, the 17th state senatorial district, and the 149th state representative district. These districts refer to our representation on a national and state level. Next week’s election, however, is an exercise in local politics. LM’s school board may be relatively insignificant when compared to the office of the President of the United States, but its outcome will have a huge effect on one of the ‘08 race’s hottest issues: education. The local public schools are outdated, inaccessible, and in various stages of disrepair. They are also far too small. Our choices? Raise property taxes to rebuild schools, or “make do” with the resources we already have. No surprises here: a democratic majority on the school board would vote to build two state-of-the-art educational facilities for the township. This would cater to the growing demands of students’ families, such as class size, handicapped accessibility, and technology. Should we fail to grab the majority of seats on the board, Lower Merion will favor the demands of large and valuable property owners, leaving the school system to quite literally gather dust until the next off-off year, meanwhile cramming more and more students into undersized classrooms.

What’s going on locally in Lower Merion has no real implications for anyone living outside of the township. So why is this important? For one thing, no Democratic presidential candidate will get those two new schools built, no matter how many educational reforms he or she signs into law. Local politics are so often obscured by national elections, whose issues seem infinitely more impending and important than the concerns of the sixty thousand residents of my town. But local elections have the biggest impact on the communities they represent, and some of the best national changes start at home.

Sure, I’m hanging on to every word of every presidential hopeful. I’ve got November 8th, 2008 circled in red on my calendar. But in the meantime, I’m sending in my absentee ballot, so that the United States has two fewer schools to worry about.