Do you realize that our nation boasts of more teachers than members of any other profession? With sheer numbers, you’d think we could rule educational policy. Maybe — just maybe the day has come when all of us teachers shed our cloaks of meekness and embrace our own power. After years of inadequate salaries, increasing paperwork, unpleasant working environments, and lack of respect, maybe we can now say as a single voice, “Enough!” (In my mental background, I hear Helen Ready singing “I am woman [teacher] hear me roar.”)
With regard to voting, a different conflict recently loomed over Texas teachers. What differentiates encouragement to vote from influencing choices? A bit of history seems in order.
In 2015, Laura Yeager posted a website called Texas Educators Vote. Her goal, to encourage teacher involvement and thus empowerment, seemed positive. She believed that teachers could help themselves and their profession by learning about candidates and voting. However, red flags went up for conservatives.
Empower Texans began to contest the constitutionality of urging teachers to go to the polls. Although no efforts at promoting candidates or parties existed on Yeager’s site, Senator Paul Bettencourt and Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton felt coercion lurked under support.
Fear over an incorrect perception of illegal actions prompted Empower Texans to encourage teachers to snitch on one another if they spied hints of liberal conspiracy. Teachers, who really need and want to help one another felt especially reluctant when they realized that no coercion or political bias existed. In a bold stroke of humor, reactions began to emerge like backlash title waves.
Teachers, usually mild-mannered and too busy to engage in such things, reacted to the warnings by snitching about teachers’ caring actions that went well beyond the scope of duty. For example, they reported on a teacher who spent her own money to feed a child with no funds. Imagine that!
The whistle began to blow in earnest as friends of educators began to report numerous over-the-top good deeds. Teacher heroes became recipients of appreciation. Another imagine that! I love the idea of recognizing heroic and unselfish acts by teachers.
Due to the consuming nature of teaching, many find that researching candidates and voting really feels like too much to ask. Knowing this (because I have been there and done that), I applaud teachers who recently found the time on March 6, 2018, to add one more item to their long lists of things to do. Thank you, teachers, for tucking your fatigue away and getting to the polls.
Let’s get real. A good beginning cannot replace a powerful ending. We have one primary down with a run-off and final election yet to come. I wish I could tell teachers to relax. Instead, consider a few real questions aimed at those in the classroom. Do you struggle with policies that make your job harder?
Do you spend increasingly more of your own money for supplies in your classroom while your government seeks deviant ways to fund vouchers? (Do not be fooled. Any resources for vouchers reduce money for public education.) Finally, which legislators promoted these policies? Aha! The time has come for teachers to recognize that we have a voice and we have power.
Barajas, Michael. “Texas Teachers ‘Blow the Whistle’ After Conservatives Accuse Them (Gasp!) Getting out the Vote.” Texas Observer. February 2018. https://www.texasobserver.org/texas-teachers-blow-the-whistle/
Grieder, Erica. “Blowing the Whistle on Texas Constitution.” Houston Chronicle. February, 2018.
Platoff, Emma. “Civic Engagement or Illegal Electioneering? How a School Voting Project Became a Conservative Target.” The Texas Tribune. February, 2018. https://www.texastribune.org/2018/02/09/texas-teachers-take-twitter-over-empower-texans-whistleblower-callout/
Sullivan, Michael Quinn (Treasurer). “Empower Texans PAC.” Empolwertexans. chttps://empowertexans.com/pac/om/pac/.