Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators
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Why the Cool Cats and Kittens Will Vote in the Primaries

Watching Texas government in action can feel like an episode of Tiger King, a study in what happens when unscrupulous characters get put in charge without accountability. Fortunately, Texas has a process for weeding out the Joe Exotics of state government. Every two years, voters get to decide whether to keep them or feed them to the cats.

Thanks to redistricting, your 2022 ballot will look different. Wherever you live in Texas, your address is assigned to a particular district for the Texas House, Texas Senate, State Board of Education (SBOE), and U.S. House. Redistricting—the drawing of these maps—determines which candidates on your ballot may have a significant advantage based on the demographics of the district. Following each census, the people currently in charge of the Texas Legislature get to design these maps based on what they think gives them—and their party—a better chance of reelection.

The 2018 election showed 51% of Texans voted for the Republican at the top of the ballot, and 48% voted for the Democrat—a fairly even split between the two major parties. Yet, under the new maps drawn in 2021, Republicans are expected to win 19 of 31 seats in the Texas Senate. That’s a 61% supermajority—enough to ignore the preferences of the roughly half of all Texans who voted for Democratic candidates. No matter which party—if any—you favor, a supermajority in the Legislature makes it likely the party in power can (and will) pass extremely partisan bills without needing a single vote from the other side.

Because of this gerrymandering, the outcomes of many races on the November 2022 general election ballot are already baked in. The winners will be chosen in the March 2022 primary elections, and that’s where we must focus right now.

Texas public schools have been fortunate to have both Republican and Democratic champions in the Legislature and on the SBOE. These officeholders cast key votes opposing private school vouchers, trying to rein in high-stakes testing, and supporting increases in school funding, educator compensation, and retirement benefits. Critically, they have blunted the efforts of other politicians who seek to attack teachers and undermine the public school system for financial gain.

Redistricting always results in a reshuffling as politicians retire or run for higher offices. This time, several education-friendly officeholders are retiring, and their successors will mostly be chosen in the March primary elections. Candidates backed by wealthy voucher proponents, such as Betsy DeVos, are lined up to replace them and putting a lot of money and effort into vying for your votes. Case in point: A prominent voucher supporter in Texas recently posted to his several thousand social media followers that public education is “a babysitting service” focused on “employing otherwise unemployable adults, not educating kids.” This is the rhetoric being used to gin up anti-teacher votes this election cycle.

If candidates who belittle public schools win even a handful of seats previously held by pro-public education legislators, every anti-educator bill the Legislature has previously rejected will be brought up and passed permanently into law. That includes vouchers, which would fundamentally dismantle the public education system we have supported for so long. 

Then, it will be our turn in the cat cage.

Fortunately, we know what to do. The best chance to protect public education is in the primary election. It is more important than ever for educators to research the candidates and vote in  the March 1 primaries. Early voting runs from Feb. 14–25. Our nonpartisan, fact-based resources at include voting records—the true measure of a lawmaker’s education views—as well as candidates’ survey responses to questions about public education issues.

As we saw in the 2019 legislative session, which followed an election where educators showed up in force, the education vote has the power to steer the legislative agenda. So, let’s take our tiger metaphor another direction: It’s time to awaken the sleeping tiger and unleash the hidden dragon at the polls. I’ll see you there.


Author: Mark Wiggins, ATPE Lobbyist