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Educators, We Must Speak Up at the Ballot Box!

As an educator, how often have you heard or participated in discussions with colleagues about a new policy or process your school district has adopted? Or complained that there aren't enough subs, teacher aides, and other needed support staff? Have you questioned the frequency, validity, or necessity of high-stakes testing required by the state? You are not alone. The problem is that we sit around and talk about it yet seldom take any action. Often, we're waiting for someone else to speak on our behalf, like our educators' association or union, rather than try ourselves. Unions and educator associations are excellent at lobbying and rallying the teacher troops. I highly recommend educators belong to such organizations for a collective voice and protection of professional rights. However, the educators' voting voice speaks loudest at the ballot box.

 

Why? Lawmakers, many of which have never stepped into public school, are creating laws, policies, and decisions that significantly affect schools' daily functions and routines. For example, some parents say they have the right to know what a teacher is teaching a year in advance for the upcoming school year. So, lawmakers run to their desks and craft a bill that purpose teachers publish next year's lesson plans. Teachers must regularly submit lesson plans to someone in authority on the campus. Teachers must also follow state standards and guidance from their district regarding implementing the approved curriculum. Most school districts make their pacing calendar, scope and sequence, and state standards available publicly online on their website in parent portals 24/7.

 

So, what can educators do to effect change? First, we must create a culture of voting and ensure that we participate in every election we are eligible to vote. We often get frustrated about one issue, leading to a rant about multiple concerns to our administration. Unfortunately, although the rant may have provided a momentary release, the matter gets lost and fails to reach the intended target--state lawmakers. They are the ones who write public education laws and allocate public finances to public schools, charter schools, and educator contracts and funding. We can get their attention best at the polls.

 

How do we create a personalized culture of voting?

 

Prioritize Voting. Commit and construct a plan to vote. Building a plan solidifies your intention. It covers many items to ensure you have what you need to accomplish the physical task.

 

Consider these questions:  Am I registered? When is the last date to register? If you've moved, is your state ID correct and valid? Will you vote early? Or, will you vote on election day? Where will I vote? What are the polling place hours? Can I vote anywhere? Will I need transportation? Will I have time to vote during the workday?

 

Sample Plan:

  • Verify Voter Registration is current. The Texas Secretary of State has a website to check your registration, register to vote or change your name or address.

  • Identification matches voter registration information.

  • After work, I will vote at 4:30 PM on the first day of early voting at the community center on Forest Hill Drive.

  • Back-up plan: If I miss my scheduled time, I will execute my plan the next day.

 

Perform Candidate Research. Make sure your vote counts for the candidate that best represents your views and supports public education. Check candidate information and legislative voting records.

 

Consider these questions: Do they support vouchers? Did they or do their children attend public school? How did they vote on issues important to you or identified by your union or association? How do they feel about Charter schools, school funding, and state accountability? How did they vote regarding the last educator raise, retirement benefits, or school employee insurance increase? 

 

Many nonpartisan websites provide information on advocacy, candidates, and candidate legislative voting history. Here are a few to get you started.

 

  • Texas Educators Vote: The website provides quality information for educators about candidates. It also includes various ways to advocate and essential election information.

 

  • League of Women Voters: The website can help you find your elected official, get nonpartisan information about the candidates, and learn ways to get involved.

 

  • Raise Your Hand Texas - Advocacy: By signing up for the RYHT newsletter on the website, you can get information about critical education issues and candidate forums.

 

You can also contact your local educator organization for more information. These are just some of the many resources available to educators to gain information about candidates or vital education topics.

 

Execute the Plan. Be excited and encourage others to vote. Wear your "I Voted" sticker and share a picture across social media. This act can inspire others to vote. Invite your friends to go and vote. If you're an administrator, create a culture of voting on your campus. For example, have a day for voter registration for staff and high school students. Or consider an "after/before school meeting" ban on election day and during a week of early voting to ensure your staff has the opportunity to vote. This practice is often done for school bond elections and presidential elections, but it should be a consistent best practice.

 

It's time to ensure lawmakers know we are watching what they say and do. Now more than ever, they need to hear us at the ballot box. So, let's speak LOUD and STRONG! See you at the poll!

 

Tamara Sanford is a Navy veteran and former middle school educator in Texas. She is currently the Director of Professional Learning for a local educator association in Texas. Connect on LinkedIn and Twitter.

References

 

League of Women Voters in Texas. (n.d.). League of Women Voters of Texas Nonpartisan Voter Guide. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from

https://lwvtx.clubexpress.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=979482&module_id=483012

State of Texas - Secretary of State. (n.d.). Texas secretary of State World Wide Web homepage. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from

https://www.sos.texas.gov/

Texas Educators Vote. (n.d.). Research candidates. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from

https://texaseducatorsvote.com/research-candidates/

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