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Change Begins at the Polls

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 2/19/2018

We have all witnessed the continued attacks on public education during the last few legislative sessions. It was evident during the 2017 regular and special sessions when some legislators and state leaders tried to take away your right as a public school employee to pay for your association dues via payroll deduction—a clear attempt to silence your voice.

At a time when our children and teachers are in need of support, some state leaders continue to attack our schools, while at the same time asking teachers to do more with less. Retired teachers are also feeling the effects of long-term political attitudes that have resulted in the underfunding of our education infrastructure. Many have watched their health insurance premiums go through the roof with no offsetting increase in pension benefits from the legislature.

Get out and vote!

One of the greatest tools in our democratic toolbox is the ability to express our content—or our discontent—with the status quo by going out to vote. That’s what makes our democracy so great! All we have to do is show up on Election Day and vote for the candidates who will make public education more than just a priority on the campaign trail. We need candidates who are committed to fighting for public education during the legislative session, when it really counts.

The Primary Election is Tuesday, March 6. That means we are just one month away from having the opportunity to change the conversation around public education in Texas. Plenty of good candidates are running on a pro-public education platform, which is why many political observers and state leaders will be watching closely to see if the education community makes it out to the polls. If you don’t vote, the people who have been pushing for and allowing anti-public education policies to move through the legislature will assume that you agree with their actions. This election is your chance to send a strong message that the education community has taken notice and that it will not accept policies that are harmful to students, teachers, and retirees.

The numbers are on our side!

There’s always been talk around the capitol about how the education community could be kingmakers if they simply went out and voted. As an educator, you have the voting numbers to make or break the political ambitions of any candidate vying for a seat in the House, Senate, State Board of Education (SBOE), and statewide offices. You hold the key to change the makeup of the legislature because you have the numbers to do so: If we added up all current and retired public school personnel in Texas, we would easily top one million potential voters. Imagine what that number would creep up to if we started adding spouses, children, friends, and family members.

To give you an idea of the potential power you hold, here’s an example: In 2014, in the Republican primary runoff for the lieutenant governor’s seat, a total of 749,915 people voted, and the winner received 487,829 votes. Can you imagine if only half of those one million potential voters went out on Election Day and voted for candidates who are committed to supporting public education? The power is in the numbers, and that scares many people who are not friends of public education. They don’t want you to possess that type of influence inside the Texas Capitol.

Voting in the primary is the key!

Because of the way the Texas legislature has carved out legislative districts, a majority of the races will be decided in March. The key to a successful winning strategy is to vote in the primary of your district’s dominant party, regardless of your party affiliation. This is where we have a real shot at electing pro-public education candidates. You might be asking yourself, “Can I turn around and vote with the party that I align with in the general election if I voted for the opposite party in March?” Yes, that’s the beauty of this. It’s a clean slate, and you’ll be able to vote with your party in November.

Before you head to the polls, please be sure to cover your primary basics:

  • Talk to family, friends, neighbors, and peers and encourage them to head to the polls on Primary Election Day.
  • Do your research by visiting TeachtheVote.org to find out more about the House, Senate, SBOE, and statewide candidates competing for your vote.
  • Early voting begins Feb. 20 and ends March 2.
  • Primary Election Day is on Tuesday, March 6.

Let’s make it happen!

Our political power is in our numbers. We MUST get out and vote if the political climate at the Texas Capitol is going to change for the good. This is our time. We must show up for the primary, otherwise we can expect to be back in Austin playing defense by fending off terrible anti-education bills. Again. Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of fighting for and defending educators, we could work together and advance common-sense education bills that benefit every child in the great public schools of Texas? So much is on the line during the 86th Legislature. You cannot afford to simply stay home in March and let a few of your neighbors dictate what will happen to your retirement and professional interests in 2019. There are 5.4 million kids counting on you to be their voice at the polls.

Get out and vote NOW! Early voting runs from Feb. 20 through March 2.

For more details on how ATPE supports Texas educators at the legislature, see our blog at TeachTheVote.org. For real-time updates from our lobby team, follow @teachthevote on Twitter.