Spring 2024 ATPE News

Page 10


What Makes a Candidate Pro-Public Education?

I BY MONTY EXTER ATPE Governmental Relations Director


recently received an email from an ATPE member who commented, among other things, that, “No teacher pay raises again is absurd!” Having left a significant portion of a $38 billion state budget surplus on the table, it is hard to describe the Legislature’s failure to fund teacher pay increases—and largely failing to fund public education funding increases at all—as anything other than absurd. However, absurd as it may be, any Capitol insider will also tell you it was not at all unexpected. Let’s dig into why and what we collectively can do about it.

them, especially the freshman legislators. The governor is very well-funded, and based on his most recent election results, he came into this session well-liked by his party’s primary voters, as well as most general election voters. Contrast that with the prevailing—even if not entirely accurate— thought among politicians that “teachers don’t vote,” and on paper, appeasing the governor makes more sense than appeasing teachers in a head-tohead conflict. The truth is educators do vote. In fact, they vote in slightly higher numbers than the general public (admittedly, not a high bar in Texas).

THE OPPOSITION Gov. Greg Abbott went into the 88th Legislature with one education goal: pass a voucher. That Texas is voucher-free one regular and four special sessions later is both an immense victory and proof that most legislators are legitimately pro-public education. In fact, a substantial majority of legislators supported increasing education funding, including significantly increasing teacher pay, without a voucher. However, passing legislation over the objection of the state’s top two leaders is significantly more challenging than defeating legislation that one or even both support. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick opposed significant general education funding increases (i.e., meaningfully raising the Basic Allotment), and Abbott opposed any bill that did not give him his voucher. Defeating legislation requires, at most, only a simple majority of either chamber. To pass legislation over a gubernatorial veto requires House and Senate leadership willing to bring the bill up for a vote and two-thirds of the members of each chamber willing to vote in direct opposition to the governor. And while significantly more than two-thirds of House members supported increased funding, House leadership was unwilling to allow a vote against Abbott, and likely less than two-thirds of House members would have been willing to vote against him. Why? Not because there are more than a third of members who support vouchers, but because there are more than a third who fear the governor more than they fear you, your colleagues, and your influence with parents. It’s hard to blame

MAKING YOUR VOTE COUNT It is also true, however, that far too many educators do not strategically vote with their professions in mind, nor do they tend to exert their influence in shaping parental opinion when it comes to making decisions in the voting booth. With no sign that state leaders are even considering reversing course on their A viable candidate pro-voucher/ anti-public is the candidate education stance, educators must be who can win the the ones to change March primary of if they want any the party that will chance of securing ultimately win the additional funding for themselves and general election their students. In in November. fact, it has become quite clear that if districts don’t get additional funding in the next legislative session, they will be forced to lay off educators just to balance their budgets. What can educators who want more resources for their students, a raise, or simply a job at all, do? The first thing is to ensure they are registered and vote, but voting is not enough. Educators must do their homework to determine who the viable pro-public education candidate is and vote for that candidate. Let’s break down what it means to be a viable pro-public education candidate. Nine out of continued on page 30

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