Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators
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How and—most importantly—why you should vote #txed

In 2014, the ATPE House of Delegates—your representative body as an ATPE member—adopted a resolution stating the association will work to ensure all members 1) are registered to vote if eligible; 2) understand the effects of voting on public education and the profession; 3) have the tools and information needed to choose candidates who support the ATPE Legislative Program and public education; and 4) are motivated to do so. 

So, how do your votes affect public education and your profession? What tools are available to you? The answers below will hopefully make it clear why and how you should “vote public education”—in other words, with support for public education as your primary measuring stick. 

Turnout matters—a lot 

A prerequisite to voting for public education is voting in the first place. Texas educators still have a long way to go on this preliminary step, as was highlighted in a special election runoff earlier this year. The race was a matchup between two candidates of the same party, one endorsed by anti-public school advocates (Candidate A) and the other supported by public education advocacy groups (Candidate B). Sadly, yet predictably, it was a low turnout election with less than 10% of registered voters turning out to the polls. The result: In a district of around 168,000 people, fewer than 6,800 elected a candidate who does not support public education or educators. The real travesty: In a race decided by roughly a thousand votes, the approximately 4,000 educators living in that district could have changed the outcome, had they turned out. Hopefully, this example demonstrates the pitfalls and potential influence of educators deciding whether to vote.  

How do you vote #txed? 

Deciding to vote is only the first step. The next is voting for candidates who will further your priorities. So how do you “vote public education”? 

You start by shifting away from judging candidates based on partisan branding and instead evaluate them based on their policy positions. Consider which policy areas are important to you. For instance, you might think of public education, health care, immigration, or zoning and urban planning. How do these issues affect your daily life? Which is most important to impact with your vote? When evaluating candidates based on policies, it is important to understand that policy areas are not equally affected by different levels of government. You want to evaluate candidates based on the policies they can significantly impact. For example, a city council member or a U.S. congressman does not have as much direct influence on public education policy as members of the Texas Legislature, the governor, the lieutenant governor, and members of the State Board of Education.  

Next, determine whether a candidate running for an office that impacts the policy areas you care about shares your positions. Pay attention to what the candidates say, to what others say about them, and to their past actions. Most candidates state their positions; you just need to know where to look. Consider the election at the beginning of this article: Candidate A had publicly stated he opposed teacher organizations and supported “school choice” programs like the federal voucher schemes Sen. Ted Cruz has attempted to pass. Candidate B had said he supported increased school funding and a cost-of-living adjustment for retired educators but that he opposed vouchers. Sometimes, candidates will be intentionally vague or misleading, especially about issues that are not a priority to them. That is why it’s helpful to evaluate whether their statements align with those of their supporters. Again, Candidate A was supported by organizations as well as current and former policymakers who support vouchers and privatization of public schools and oppose the existence of ATPE and similar organizations. Candidate B was supported by local school leaders and pro-public education advocacy groups. Finally, if a candidate has a track record, double-check their words against their actions—because as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Candidate A had no real track record, but Candidate B had been in the Legislature before and therefore had a voting history that matched what he was saying and what others were saying about him in terms of his support for public education. 

Your voting toolbox 

You might be thinking, that sounds good, but I’m busy—and what you just described sounds like a lot of work. Thankfully, ATPE has tools to make it much easier. ATPE’s brings all the information listed above into one simple-to-navigate place. Enter your address to find out who will be on your ballot here in Texas—where nearly all public education policy issues affecting you are decided. Visit each candidate’s profile to link to the candidate’s website and social media, read their answers to the ATPE candidate survey, review endorsements from organizations with positions for or against public education, and access other helpful information about their stances on public education. In less than 15 minutes, you can research all the covered candidates on your primary or general election ballot.  

But why should you vote public education? 

I have faith that as a Texas educator and ATPE member, you know that public education is a big important part of your life. What you may not know or might sometimes forget is the degree to which politicians control your profession and your compensation, the schools in which you work, and the resources you have to teach students. Public education policy determines your salary, your family’s health benefits, and your retirement.  

For most people, those pocketbook issues alone would make something their top policy consideration. Educators, though, are notoriously prone to placing others’ concerns ahead of their own needs. So consider this: Public education policy is more than teacher pay and staff funding issues. Public education is the fabric holding our communities together and is quite literally responsible for creating the future of our state. Public education directly or indirectly touches almost everything we do, and policymakers are second only to educators themselves in determining the health of our public education system.  

So, the next time there is an election for a member of the Texas House or Senate, the governor or lieutenant governor, or a member of the State Board of Education, whether it is a primary or general election, I hope you will look past partisan credentials. I hope you will consider candidates’ positions as policymakers. I hope you will prioritize their stance on education policy. And I hope you will vote public education. 

Author: Monty Exter, ATPE Senior Lobbyist