Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators
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Public Education is Ailing, and Your Vote is the Medicine

Public education is currently swirling in a vat of hot topics. Some might even say it is drowning.  

The politicization of education is at an all-time high, and it seems every issue ignites a fight. Not only do these debates include serious discussions about school safety, but also fights about parental rights, curriculum, funding, and more. Politicians are relying on inflammatory allegations—allegations of “porn” in school libraries, fearmongering about teachers’ indoctrinating students—to drive voters to the conclusion that public schools are out of control, and the only remedy is private school vouchers.  

The ATPE members who responded to our “What Would You Tell the Teacher Vacancy Task Force?” survey earlier this year commented that a widespread culture of disrespect toward educators has emanated out of this political rhetoric and is impacting their ability to build crucial relationships with parents and students, as well as their job satisfaction. 

As long as politicians see this rhetoric as beneficial to their election and reelection goals, we may reasonably assume the negative impact on the education profession and the public school system as a whole will continue. In fact, the inflammation will likely ramp up as we approach the Nov. 8 general election. As with any sickness, it is important to treat the symptoms and take preventive measures to protect the body in the future. 

To treat the symptoms of inflammatory rhetoric, educators must speak up. Local advocacy happens by building relationships with parents, community members, and other educators. It includes participating in campus and district opportunities to lead and communicate with decision-makers, attending your local school board meetings, and being a part of local ATPE activities. We know you’re busy, but we’ve made it easy to use ATPE’s member tools, such as Advocacy Central, to engage in broader, state-level advocacy, such as supporting legislation or policy changes that would improve work-life balance and the overall viability of the profession. Staying up to date on ATPE member surveys, attending the ATPE Summit and ATPE at the Capitol, recruiting other members, and contacting ATPE Governmental Relations with your thoughts and feedback are all valuable engagement methods that supplement the work the ATPE staff is doing with state officials every day on your behalf. But the single most effective way to take preventive action to mitigate the sickness of dishonesty that pervades politics and impacts our classrooms is to VOTE.  

The most effective elected officials are those who listen. Not all do, but the good ones will lean in. It is increasingly important to stay aware of important election dates and learn about the candidates on your ballot by researching their education stances and history. Luckily, ATPE provides this information for you through The ATPE lobby team creates new candidate surveys every election cycle to reflect the important issues of the time and get vital information to you, the voter. As you research your ballot choices, tell your colleagues—both ATPE members and nonmembers alike—to get ready to vote, too. Without a culture of voting among educators, we will continue to sink in the sea of malevolent political rhetoric and “hot” topics that take away from the real issues. One day, we might not be able to get out. 

We can save public education, but only if we vote and speak out—in whatever form that takes. The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election is Oct. 11, and early voting occurs Oct. 24 through Nov. 4. Vote like our public schools depend on it. Because they do. 

Author: Andrea Chevalier