I saw a news photo the other day of Kentucky teachers marching to save their pensions from an insensitive, short-sighted state government and noticed that one teacher was holding a sign that read, “Don’t make me use my teacher voice!” In truth, she and her colleagues already were using their teacher voices, and so are growing numbers of other educators around the country.
The only way that educators will force the people in power to listen to them is by using their teacher voices, their bus driver voices, their cafeteria worker voices, whatever educator voice they have. It is encouraging and impressive to see thousands of educators in West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma march, protest and walk out to protect their hard-earned pensions and force recalcitrant governors and lawmakers to increase education funding. Legislatures in some of these states are taking notice, and the movement shows signs of spreading.
But we have a long way to go, and right now the loudest voice for Texas educators is their vote.
The Texas Legislature is not in session this year and won’t return until January. The upcoming election will decide what kind of Legislature it will be. If educators don’t use their educator voices and vote education first, we are going to be sorely disappointed again with insufficient funding, excessive testing, crowded classrooms, low pay and another fight over vouchers that we may very well lose.
Sure, thousands of educators marching on the Capitol in downtown Austin would be an impressive sight. But it would be far more impressive and productive to see tens of thousands of educators use their educator voices and vote Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick out of office.
Let’s be clear about one thing. Dan Patrick, the bane of public schools and local property taxpayers, didn’t get elected to the second highest office in state government without the votes of many educators. Neither did Gov. Greg Abbott. Educators have a right to vote for whomever they wish – and for any reason. But educators who voted for Dan Patrick or Greg Abbott didn’t use their teacher voices and didn’t vote education first.
Patrick will be on the November ballot, and he will have a true, pro-public education candidate, Mike Collier, running against him. Mike Collier has been endorsed by TSTA-PAC, and he deserves the vote of anyone who wants to strengthen our public schools. Abbott will be on the ballot too, even though we don’t know yet who his opponent will be.
Also crucial to the future of public schools, students and educators are races for the Texas House in which the winners will vote in January for the next speaker, following the retirement of Joe Straus. Straus was a strong advocate for public education and more school funding and opposed vouchers. Depending on how strongly teachers use their teacher voices in legislative elections, the next speaker may echo Straus’ concerns – or be a Dan Patrick-style disaster.
TSTA-PAC has endorsed pro-public education candidates in many legislative races and may endorse more before the November election. If you live in those districts, please plan to vote for these pro-education candidates and, if you have time, campaign for them.
Your educator voice is your vote. Use it for your students and your profession.