voting and elections

Texas teacher elected to state Senate in Oklahoma


At least two new governors were among educators or former educators elected to public office this week, according to Education Dive. The successful candidates also include David Bullard, a Denison (Texas) ISD history and government teacher, who lives across the state line in Oklahoma and was elected to the Oklahoma Senate.

Bullard, a Republican, was Denison ISD’s Teacher of the Year in 2016.

Both of the educators-turned-governors, Tony Evers in Wisconsin and Tim Walz in Minnesota, are Democrats and have been in politics for a while.

Evers, a former science teacher, currently is Wisconsin’s superintendent of public instruction. He unseated Republican Scott Walker, a union-busting governor who was no friend of educators and other public employees.

Walz is a former high school teacher and current member of Congress who won the governor’s race in Minnesota on an educational platform opposing vouchers and calling for universal pre-K and stronger recruitment efforts for minority educators.

Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, became the first black Democrat from Connecticut to be elected to Congress.

Five other Oklahoma teachers, Democrats and Republicans, were elected to that state’s House of Representatives. Unlike Bullard, they all teach in Oklahoma.

The Education Dive list includes more than 40 educators who were elected or reelected to public office around the country. It may not include everybody since estimates of educators or former educators who ran for office totaled as many as 1,800.


You can vote for the past, or you can vote for a better future


If you didn’t vote early, you have a choice on Tuesday. You can vote for the past, or you can vote for a better future. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick want you to vote for the past, a past in which schools are under-funded, educators are under-paid and hundreds of thousands of Texas school children and their families are under-nourished and lack adequate health care.

Texas is changing. That is inevitable, regardless of the results of this election. Trump, Cruz, Abbott, Patrick and their allies fear that change because many Texas leaders of the future won’t look like them and won’t think like them. Trump’s name isn’t on the ballot, but his elected supporters and apologists in Texas are piggybacking on his influence, however hateful it may be.

The fear and racial prejudice that Trump continues to stir won’t change the face of Texas’ future. The demographics of Texas and much of the United States have been changing and will continue to change, no matter how many troops Trump sends to the southern border or how many lies he tweets about birthright citizenship.

Texas will change for the better, but only with new leaders, leaders who will embrace change, not fear it. Leaders who will recognize the crucial role of public education and provide educators and students with real resources, not more lip service, funding cuts and privatization. Leaders who will applaud diversity and work to give every child an opportunity to succeed, beginning with improved health care and other family support services that millions of Texans need and the curent leadership has deliberately neglected.

Leaders who promise opportunity instead of promoting fear. Leaders such as these.

This is a critical election for public schools, students and educators, one of the most critical of our lifetimes. It also is a critcal election for our state’s future. Don’t be distracted by hate and fear. Vote Education First!

Ted Cruz and Betsy DeVos are school privatization partners


One thing is certain about whatever Ted Cruz may claim he has “accomplished” for public education during his time in the U.S. Senate: educators and school children can’t afford more of the same.

First, he voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as the most ill-informed, under-qualified secretary of education in the history of the department. Had Cruz cared enough about public schools and educators and voted against her, DeVos wouldn’t be actively trying to lay waste to public education today. Remember, the Senate confirmation vote was 50-50, and Vice President Pence broke the tie in favor of DeVos.

Cruz clearly is on DeVos’ school privatization program. Within a year after voting for her, Cruz succeeded in doing what Dan Patrick has failed to do in Texas. He won congressional  approval of a private school voucher program. It was in the form of an amendment to President Trump’s tax bill. Cruz’s amendment expands the tax-exempt 529 college savings account to cover as much as $10,000 a year in tuition or expenses for elementary and secondary students in religious or other private schools.

This tax break will benefit mainly upper-income families and some in the middle. But it will ignore low-income parents and increase the inequities in educational opportunities, while reducing the amount of federal aid available for educating low-income and disabled children. Cruz also attempted to give the same vouchers to parents who homeschool their children, but that part of his amendment was struck on a procedural issue.

Now, Cruz is back in Texas in the closing days of what he hopes is a reelection campaign, and he is promoting charter schools. He will be talking later today to the Texas Charter Schools conference in Houston. Technically, charters are public schools because they receive our tax dollars. But corporate-style charter chains, which have begun to dominate the charter landscape, are first cousins to private schools, and they are taking millions of tax dollars from under-funded public school districts.

Cruz was scheduled to discuss “his perspective on the federal role in education, his education priorities, and how those priorities would impact Texas.”

Cruz’s perspective on public education is the same as Betsy DeVos’and Dan Patrick’s – under-fund it and then privatize it. TSTA is supporting Beto O’Rourke in the Senate race. O’Rourke will boost public education, not tear it down.



You have demonstrated and tweeted for education, but nothing will change if you don’t vote


You are an educator. All year you have been reading stories about underpaid and under-appreciated educators. You have been watching video clips of angry teachers marching, demonstrating and walking off their jobs to protest low pay and underfunded classrooms and tell politicians they are not going to take it anymore.

You have applauded their courage and empathized with their plight. You have tweeted your own outrage and spent hours expressing your frustration on social media. You have shared your own stories about the extra jobs you have been forced to take to meet family budgets. Maybe you have attended pro-education rallies in your own communities. And you have registered to vote.

You have been engaged, and that is great. But if that is all you do, nothing, absolutely nothing, will change.

Now, you need to vote. You need to vote in large numbers and vote for candidates who truly support public schools and the people who teach and work in them, people like you. You, of course, have a right to vote for whomever you want and for any issue of your choosing, but if you don’t make education your No. 1 issue and vote for legitimate, pro-public education candidates, nothing will change.

You will continue to be underpaid, you will continue taking extra jobs during the school year and you will continue to be angry, frustrated and feeling used.

Education is your livelihood, but maybe another issue is your main political concern. Maybe it is immigration, an issue over which President Trump and many anti-education candidates continue to fan the flames of fear and racism, often with half-truths and lies. Their goal is to confuse and deceive.

I got a campaign flyer from one of those anti-education candidates the other day, spreading fear about immigration but saying not a word about public schools or the needs of educators and students. This candidate was taking the votes of educators for granted or hoping educators would be so discouraged they would not bother to vote.

You may find another issue competing for your vote. But remember this. Per-pupil education spending in Texas is $2,300 per year less than the national average, and teacher pay is $7,300 below the national average. Active educators and retirees struggle with rising health care costs. Many classrooms are overcrowded and under-equipped, students take too many standardized tests, and political ideologues are still trying to rewrite the history and science our kids are taught. None of this will change if Texas educators don’t vote in large numbers and in the best interests of their professions and their students, and that means voting for candidates who make education a priority.

Voting turnout in Texas traditionally has been low, and if educators don’t do their part to change that, anti-public education policies won’t change. You can march, demonstrate and tweet for education all you want, but if you don’t vote for education, you can’t finish the job. Voting is what politicians respect – and fear. Without it, they will keep taking educators for granted.

TSTA-PAC has endorsed candidates of both parties throughout the state on their stands and/or records on education alone. To find out which candidates TSTA has endorsed on your ballot, go to the link below, click on “Customized Ballot” and fill in your home address. Marching, demonstrating and tweeting your outrage may make you feel better. But voting is the only really effective political activity you can perform.