Voices Behind the Vote - Part 5: A House Divided

Oct 17, 2012

Our Voices Behind the Vote Series continues with Jessica and Danny Montaño of Los Lunas  who use their political disagreements to stay informed this election season...

When the 3rd period bell rings at Los Lunas High School...about 30 students make their way across campus to room B10 for Ms. Jessica Montaño's senior English class.

Ok this is the deal....we're going to take this step by step today.

Today's class is learning the ins and outs of essay writing, but rather than discussing topics like symbolism in the Scarlet Letter, these seniors are exploring current events.

What's the topic you have Eric? LeBron or Kobe?  So...now he's going to write his opinion statement.

This is the second year Los Lunas High School has taken a current events approach to teaching senior English... A tactic that Jessica thinks is very effective because it encourages kids to take a closer look at their beliefs.

As an educator, I think the most important thing is to challenge kids to question everything. Everything. To question their own beliefs, to question other people's beliefs, and to research on their own and to come up with those opinions on their own.

And Jessica says she uses the same strategy when forming her political opinions...like her stance on social promotion. The decision to continue promoting failing 3rd graders in New Mexico public schools has been a hotly debated issue in the roundhouse this year.

I have mixed feelings...because, theoretically, if they don't get the skill, we don't move them on, but I know developmentally, holding them back is not necessarily the answer either. I worked in a middle school for 3 years and we did a lot of social promoting of 8th graders, and I mean, basically, we were afraid to have them as 14 year olds with a 12 year old. Socially, it was dangerous for both the 14 year old and the 12 year old.

She says there are multiple factors to consider with the issue, and she worries that lawmakers could make a decision without understanding what really goes on in the classroom....Which is why Jessica is supportive of the teachers union she belongs to...

I think unions are necessary because the top needs to know what the people in the trenches are going through. I don’t think it needs to be us against them, by any means…it should be a collaboration.

Jessica's political concerns move to the national level though, when it comes to her second job as a yoga teacher. In addition to teaching high school English, Jessica also co-owns a yoga studio in Los Lunas. And as a small business owner, she cares about the economy and middle class budgets.

Household budgets affect my small business directly. And if they don’t have that money to spend on themselves, they’re not going to walk through my door and spend money on yoga. I don't agree with the trickle- down effect. I believe in building from the middle class, so Obama will probably be my choice.

But she's not completely convinced, because she says when it comes to the economy both candidates are talking too much about what they won't do, while what they will do is still pretty vague.

Can you draw me a diagram, or sit down and show me the numbers, I would like someone to come out and say this is what it is…not playing the political game…just what is a decent plan we can go by.

Jessica says her career and life in general have helped her form her political opinions...which happen to be the polar opposite of her husband Danny.

And just like Jessica, Danny’s main concern this election season is the economy.

That's what's really driving me. I don't think Obama has done enough, and I don't agree with Obama Care...I like Romney's ideas better than Obama’s.

Because, he says, Romney's economic plan involves the trickle-down effect, a model that he believes makes sense in his line of work.

I’m in construction. I'm a construction superintendent, My dad owns the company, and I'm in the process of taking over the company. The less taxes a business owner has to pay, the more employees they’re going to hire. That's just the way it is.

Jessica, however, isn’t so sure...

I'm not 100% sold...but I do take that into consideration...

[Reporter] So how does that work with you guys? Do you think it's good that you disagree? How's the dinner conversation? [Danny] Well, I think it definitely keeps some spice in our marriage...haha...it's fun to go back and forth, but it's not too serious. [Jessica] I think it keeps us honest and from spouting off.

But what's more important, Jessica says, is that their political disagreements force them to take a closer look at their beliefs, much like she teaches her students in her English class.

Just like in our household...Democrats and republicans are really not that different. We  want the same things. There are just some small ideas that we differ on.

But for the Montaño family, and many other Americans, it's those small ideas that will make all the difference on election day.