Elections have consequences for public schools, and, if you haven’t already cast an early ballot, you have 5.2 million reasons – the children who attend those schools — to vote tomorrow (March 1) in the party primary of your choice.
Down-ballot from the presidential nominating contests, both Republican and Democratic voters will find local races for the Texas Legislature and the State Board of Education that could make significant differences in school funding, classroom sizes, the future of high-stress testing, the quality of textbooks and curricula standards and the success or failure of vouchers and other privatization efforts.
Most of these races will be decided in the primaries, not in the general election in November.
TSTA is not partisan. It is backing both Republican and Democratic candidates, based strictly on a candidate’s support and advocacy for public schools, students and educators.
Groups trying to undermine public schools for their members’ profits aren’t partisan either, and one in particular, the misnamed Texans for Education Reform (TER), is making significant contributions in selected legislative races.
In two races in particular – one Democratic and one Republican – TER is trying to unseat two of the strongest advocates that public education has in the Texas House. One is Democratic Rep. Mary Gonzalez in House District 75 in El Paso County, about whom I have written before, and the other is Republican Rep. Gary VanDeaver in House District 1 on the other side of the state in Northeast Texas.
Gonzalez has voted to increase education funding and fought excessive standardized testing, and VanDeaver, a respected, former school administrator, also is a strong advocate for giving students and educators the resources they need to succeed. Both are members of the House Public Education Committee, which makes them worrisome to TER, whose primary interest in education is diverting tax dollars to corporate charters and other for-profit schemes for its members.
So far, TER has contributed almost $300,000 in advertising and other services to Gonzalez’s opponent, former Rep. Chente Quintanilla, and more than $100,000 to VanDeaver’s challenger, former Rep. George Lavender. As legislators, both Quintanilla and Lavender voted to under-fund education, and Lavender even voted to slash $5.4 billion from school budgets in 2011, costing thousands of Texas educators their jobs.
To see all of TSTA’s Republican and Democratic endorsements in races for the Legislature and the State Board of Education, please click on the link below. They all are important for education, but the Republican primary race for the State Board of Education in District 9 in Northeast Texas is worth some extra attention. TSTA is supporting Lufkin ISD school board President Keven Ellis to succeed Thomas Ratliff, a good board member who is not seeking reelection.
One of Ellis’ opponents is Mary Lou Bruner, an extremist ideologue backed by the tea party who has accused President Obama of being a male prostitute, believes there were dinosaurs on Noah’s ark, dismisses climate change as a hoax dreamed up by Karl Marx and denies slavery was a major issue in the Civil War. Bruner can write all she wants about that on her Facebook page – and she has, and more — but we don’t want her on the State Board of Education trying to write that into our children’s curricula and textbooks.
Yes, elections have consequences for education, folks, big consequences. Tomorrow is your chance to say something about that. Go vote!