Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators
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You Must Be Present to Win

ATPE Senior Lobbyist Mark Wiggins reminds educators of the age-old rule: You must be present to win at the ballot box.

I won’t sugarcoat it: Public schools suffered a massive blow in this year’s March 5 primary elections.

It was a sobering comedown shortly after we celebrated the Texas House’s 84-63 vote to kill Gov. Greg Abbott’s voucher bill—a bill that would have shuttered public schools and raised property taxes to subsidize tuition for those already enrolled in private schools.

It was an embarrassing loss for Abbott, who had spent more than a year trying to threaten, bribe, and trick legislators into voting against public schools. When all else failed, the governor blocked critical school funding, forcing districts across the state into deficit budgets.

Primary Results

Of the 21 Republicans who defied the party bosses by voting to protect their local public schools, 16 ran for reelection. Abbott—backed by $6 million from Pennsylvania billionaire Jeff Yass and millions more from both Betsy DeVos’ American Federation of Children (AFC) Victory Fund and those infamous West Texas oil billionaires Wilks and Dunn—led efforts to unseat those who dared to vote their districts on the voucher issue.

Once the dust settled, six of the 16 survived unscathed. Another six were defeated by primary challengers. The remaining four are headed to May 28 runoffs in which they face an uphill battle—again, largely because their pro-voucher opponents have access to the Abbott/Yass/DeVos/Wilks and Dunn war chests. These groups are pumping out campaign literature that mischaracterizes the incumbents’ votes and stances on many issues, not just public education.

Abbott was quick to tout the primaries as a massive win that put vouchers just two votes shy of passage in the Texas House. The accuracy of his count is an open question, but he is correct: The House is closer to passing vouchers than it was before the election, and the outcome could well be determined by the runoffs.

About 3.2 million Texans voted in the 2024 presidential primaries—roughly 18% of the state’s 17.9 million registered voters. A whopping 82% of Texans who were able to vote in this year’s primaries chose not to—leaving the future of public schools to be decided by the few who did.

But there were some bright spots.

The Republican proposition supporting vouchers performed significantly worse this year than it did two years ago and was one of the worst-performing measures on the Republican ballot. And despite being targeted over their votes against vouchers, the attack ads levied against the 16 incumbents made no mention of vouchers—a silent acknowledgement of the lack of popularity of vouchers among voters of both parties.

Voter Turnout

In many of the races where pro-public education incumbents performed well, preliminary data suggests that educators turned out at higher rates compared with the general population of registered voters. In at least one case, educators alone may have turned the tide.

This is especially important in a low-turnout election. As fewer voters turn out, each individual vote becomes significantly more impactful. It’s the age-old rule: You must be present to win!

Anyone who voted in the March 5 Republican primary can vote in the May 28 Republican runoffs. Anyone who voted in the Democratic primary can vote in the Democratic runoffs. Importantly, registered voters who didn’t vote in either primary can vote in any runoff May 28. And it’s critical that you do!

Turnout in runoff elections is typically half the turnout of primary elections, which themselves are notoriously low-turnout affairs. And while many of the primaries were decided by a few hundred votes, the runoffs may be decided by a few dozen. Less than 2 million people are likely to vote in the May 28 runoffs. There are 800,000 active educators in Texas.

Only we can save txed

Sure, you’ve heard it before. But for educators in Texas this year, the statement is a mathematical fact. The Texas Legislature is the closest it has ever come to passing a voucher that will close schools, cast out students, and cost untold numbers of educator jobs.

Yet educators are uniquely positioned to be the deciding factor on whether legislators—and more over state leaders—take concerns, such as educator pay and general education funding, seriously or whether they will instead listen to a handful of ultra-wealthy voucher supporters hoping to defund and resegregate the American and Texan education system. The math is in our favor. The only question is whether we will show up.

Early voting runs May 20–24. Runoff Election Day is May 28. Visit to find out if there is a runoff in your area.



Author: Mark Wiggins, ATPE Senior Lobbyist