Category Archives: Election

Happy National Voter Registration Day!

September 22 is National Voter Registration Day across the United States. Are you registered to vote? When’s the last time you checked your voter registration status? Looking for voter resources? We’ve got you covered! 

First, the November 3 election is right around the corner. Don’t let it sneak up on you. Texans, be sure to mark these important dates in your calendars:

  • September 22 (today!): National Voter Registration Day
  • October 5: Deadline to register to vote
  • October 13: First day of early voting
  • October 19: Educator Voting Day
  • October 23: Last day that a vote-by-mail application can be received (not postmarked)
  • October 30: Last day of early voting
  • November 3: Election Day! Mail-in ballots also must be received by this date.

Visit votetexas.gov to check your voter registration status, download a ballot-by-mail application, find your polling location, and more. Do you have questions about voting by mail? Check out the “So, You’re Thinking about Voting by Mail” article on our Teach the Vote advocacy blog.

Below are a few more resources for Texas voters:

  • Have your students participate in Democracy Powered by You(th). Whether your students are eligible to vote or not, they can still lend their voice to the upcoming election and make a difference. Check out the first-ever Democracy Powered by You(th) voter registration competition, a multi-organization effort to build a coalition of youth voters.
  • Read our advocacy blog. For in-depth coverage of the upcoming election, including updates on key races and issues, read our advocacy blog at teachthevote.org/news.
  • Know your candidates. Information is power! Check teachthevote.org/races to learn more about the candidates and see how your state legislators voted on education issues.
  • Follow us on Twitter. For breaking news and advocacy insights, keep up with our lobby team on Twitter @TeachTheVote.
  • Check out TexasEducatorsVote.comThis website from our nonpartisan, educator-focused coalition offers a plethora of additional resources on participating in elections.
  • Prepare your ballot ahead of time. Use vote411.org to make a sample ballot to print out and take with you to the polls.

Don’t forget to share these dates and resources with your colleagues and friends. Only by coming together and acting as one voice can we truly advocate for public education! Make a plan, and vote for your public schools, your students, and your profession.

Texas election roundup: More court rulings

A pair of court decisions this week could make a significant impact on the November elections.

On Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that three Green Party candidates must be restored to the November ballot, despite a lower court’s order to remove them because they had not paid the required filing fees. The conventional wisdom is that Green Party candidates tend to attract some voters who may have otherwise voted for a Democrat, and their presence in a close race could tip the balance toward the Republican candidate. The Texas Democratic Party filed the original complaint to remove the candidates, while the Republican justices on the Texas Supreme Court overturned the decision.

Another Texas Supreme Court decision announced Tuesday blocked Harris County from sending mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters in the county. As previously reported here at Teach the Vote, ballot applications are not the same as ballots themselves. In the Harry County case, voters would still have to make the determination of whether they are eligible to apply to vote by mail, then fill out and return the application in order to receive an actual ballot in the mail. If think you may be eligible and are considering voting by mail, check out this post by Teach the Vote that explains the process in detail.

These decisions underscore the importance of every single vote in this election. These decisions are likely to impact a relatively small number of votes, but the reason they are the subject of litigation in the first place is an acknowledgement of just how close the November elections could be.

Now onto lighter topics!

If you watched ABC this week, you may have caught the network special VOMO: Vote or Miss Out. The comedy special hosted by Kevin Hart featured guest appearances by Tiffany Hadish, Michelle Obama, Tim Allen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and other celebrities urging Americans to vote. If you need a little comedic motivation, you can watch the full special here or watch clips on YouTube.

The Texas Tribune reported this week that new voter registrations in Texas have plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline to register to vote in the November 3 election is less than three weeks away. Voters have until October 5 to register to vote if you have not already done so in the county in which you plan to cast your ballot. If you’re unsure whether you are registered, you can use this tool on the Texas Secretary of State’s website. For more information about registering, click here.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Sept. 4, 2020

This weekend we celebrate Labor Day in America. The essential work of public education has never been more prominent, and ATPE thanks all educators and staff for their service! Here is a summary of this week’s education news from ATPE Governmental Relations:


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: This week, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) launched “Project Restore”– a six-part webinar series that provides trauma-informed mental health training to teachers. The training is meant to help teachers not only reach their students, but also work out their own COVID-induced stresses. TEA also made several smaller updates to other aspects of its COVID-19 resource page. Read ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier’s blog post for more.

ATPE has been working hard to facilitate information-sharing during the pandemic. Be sure to check out our COVID-19 FAQs and Resources for new answers to commonly asked questions, watch our easy-to-understand webcasts on educator rights and leave options and disability accommodations, and explore our interactive pandemic timeline. For opportunities to take action, ATPE members can use Advocacy Central to communicate with elected officials, and anyone can take our survey on parent-teacher collaboration.


ELECTION UPDATE: H-E-B grocery store owner and public education advocate Charles Butt wrote  to the Texas Supreme Court this week, supporting Harris County’s decision to send vote-by-mail applications to its residents. Butt says in the letter, “It’s always been my impression that the more people who vote, the stronger our democracy will be.” For more on the letter and the Texas Senate District 30 special election on September 29, see this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.


States and schools should not expect a federal waiver of testing requirements this year, according to President Trump’s education secretary. Betsy DeVos wrote a letter to chief state school officers on Wednesday with this warning, urging them to demonstrate their “resolve” by continuing to administer standardized tests to students. ATPE is among countless organizations that have called for a waiver of testing requirements this year amid lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more in this blog post from ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Mitchell.


With more Texans considering mail-in voting for the November general election, ATPE has developed a set of tips and social media graphics to help voters understand what is required. Check out our new resources on applying for a mail-in ballot in this new blog post by ATPE Senior Lobbyist Monty Exter. Find out if you meet the eligibility requirements to apply for a mail-in ballot, and submit your application by Sept. 19 to ensure you will have enough time to cast your vote.


The State Board of Education (SBOE) held a virtual meeting this week where they received an update on the performance of the permanent school fund (PSF) and advanced a new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) subchapter on positive character traits, as required by House Bill (HB) 1026 passed by the 86th Texas Legislature in 2019.

According to Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff and outside consultants hired to help monitor the fund’s investments, the PSF is in good health and slowly recovering from the economic recession sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Focus has recently turned to management of the fund, which is split between the SBOE and another state agency. An outside consulting firm delivered a report to the board this week with recommendations aimed at improving management.

The board’s 15 members are scheduled to return to Austin in person on Tuesday for a week-long meeting that will address curriculum standards for science and health education, as well as whether to open more charter schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about this week’s SBOE meeting in this post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.


ATPE is asking state officials to take a closer look at planned education spending cuts that could unnecessarily hurt at-risk students. An article in the Austin American-Statesman this week revealed a summary from the Legislative Budget Board that shows how state agencies plan to cut their spending by 5% this year, as directed by state leaders back in May. The planned reductions in K-12 education spending for 2020-21 include across-the-board cuts to several state-funded programs and initiatives, although most of the education budget was exempted from the order to withhold funds. The Windham School District and Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs (JJAEPs) would see reduced funding this year, as would Communities in Schools programs that serve at-risk students. ATPE issued a press statement today urging state officials to consider more strategic reductions in this year’s spending that would cause fewer negative impacts on Texas’ most vulnerable students.

So, you’re thinking about voting by mail?

It might feel like this election season, much like the coronavirus, began roughly 42 years ago, but traditionally the real beginning of the presidential election season is the first week of September—i.e., now. That means there are two things you need to do right away: Make sure you are registered to vote, and decide if you are going to vote by mail.

Because of COVID-19, unprecedented numbers of Americans are considering voting by mail. If you are reading this post, there’s a good chance you might be, too. If you wish to vote by mail in November 2020, you should print or request your application now, fill it out as soon as you have it, and mail it to your election clerk ASAP.

Who can vote by mail in Texas?

Let’s dig into the logistics of voting by mail. If you live in 44 of the other 49 states, or the District of Columbia, you have the unrestricted right to request an absentee ballot, and you may even be sent a mail-in ballot automatically if you are a registered voter. Here in Texas, however, you must jump through some additional hoops. Not everyone is qualified to vote by mail in Texas. To request an absentee ballot by mail, you must otherwise be eligible to vote and fall into at least one of the following categories:

  • 65 years of age or older;
  • disabled;
  • out of the country on election day and the early voting period; or
  • incarcerated but not convicted (as a presently incarcerated convict is not eligible to vote).

Regarding eligibility due to disability, the Texas Supreme Court has said fear of catching a disease (i.e., COVID-19) does not qualify as a disability. The court has also stated that neither an election clerk nor the state is authorized to ask a voter citing disability on an absentee ballot application what that disability is; the election clerk must take the voter at their word when they mark disability on their absentee ballot application. In fact, writing in a specific disability might invalidate your request.

How can I receive a mail-in ballot in in Texas?

If you are eligible to vote by mail, follow these steps to receive your ballot.

  1. Print a ballot-by-mail application at texas.gov/elections/voter/reqabbm.shtml, or order an application online from the Texas Secretary of State or a third-party site such as vote.org.
  2. Complete the application. Again, do not write in a specific disability if that is your qualifying reason to receive an absentee ballot.
  3. Sign and date the application. Be sure to sign your absentee ballot application in the exact same way you will sign your actual absentee ballot. The most common reason absentee ballots are rejected is because the signature on the ballot and the signature on the ballot application do not match.
  4. After you complete your ballot application, affix postage to the application (if it is in postcard form), or place the application inside a stamped envelope.
  5. Mail the application to your county’s election administrator. You can find the mailing address for your county’s election official here. Do NOT mail your completed application back to the Secretary of State’s office. The Secretary of State’s office will throw it away.
  6. Finally, because your county election official is not required to inform you if your application is rejected, you should call your county election office about two weeks after you send in your application to verify you have been placed on the absentee ballot list, assuming you haven’t already received your ballot in the mail.

County election clerks must send mail-in-ballots to voters already on the absentee ballot list at least 30 days prior to the election. This means any eligible voter whose valid application has been received by September 19 (45 days prior to the election) will receive a mail-in ballot by October 4. You can still return an application for ballot by mail after September 19, but the election clerk is not required to send you a mail-in-ballot until seven days after your application has been received, processed, and found to be valid. The closer to the election you send in your application, the more likely you will not receive your absentee ballot before election day. That is especially true this year with expected increases in the number of applications and potential postal delays.

ATPE has created the following graphic you can use or share on social media to help folks easily understand who is eligible to vote by mail in Texas and how to apply for a ballot by mail.

2020 Ballot by Mail Flyer

Texas election roundup: HEB owner advocates for voter safety

Charles Butt, the owner of beloved Texas grocery chain H-E-B, wrote a letter to the Texas Supreme Court this week arguing in support of the ability of Texans to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter comes in response to a fight between Harris County and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton over voting by mail, which unfortunately has become a partisan issue.

“We’ve worked hard to give customers the opportunities to buy their food in the safest way. In light of this, I also support efforts to allow voting by mail, which is the safest means for people to exercise this vital right during this time,” wrote Mr. Butt. “It’s always been my impression that the more people who vote, the stronger our democracy will be.”

Houston has become the focal point in the battle over voting by mail. In the latest turn, the Texas Supreme Court has ordered Harris County not to send all voters applications for mail-in ballots. Paxton filed the original lawsuit in response to a decision by the Harris County clerk to send applications to all voters in the county with the aim of ensuring safer voting during the pandemic. The clerk now plans to send applications to all voters over the age of 65, which is just one of the categories of persons eligible to vote by mail.

It’s important to note that applications are not the same as ballots. A voter must meet the requirements for voting by mail and return a completed application for a mail-in ballot to their county election official in order to receive a ballot in the mail. Once the voter receives their actual ballot, they can fill it out and mail it back to the county election department to cast their vote.

The field of candidates is now set for the special election scheduled for September 29 in Senate District (SD) 30 in North Texas. The special election comes after state Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) announced plans to resign the seat in anticipation of his likely election to the U.S. Congress. SD 30 voted to reelect U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) by a margin of more than 44%, making it virtually certain the Senate seat will remain in Republican hands.

Friday marked the deadline to file for the open seat, and several contenders have thrown their hats into the ring. The Republican candidates include state Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster), Denton Mayor Chris Watts, beauty salon owner Shelley Luther, bootmaker Craig Carter, and consultant Andy Hopper. Union activist and electrician Jacob Minter is the lone Democrat to file. Early voting runs Sept. 14 through 25.

The latest Texas poll shows President Donald Trump (R) and former Vice President Joe Biden (D) remain in a statistical tie. A Morning Consult survey conducted after the two party conventions shows Trump leading Biden 48% to 47% in Texas, which is within the poll’s margin of error. The 1% margin is unchanged from before the conventions, in which Trump led Biden by 47% to 46%.

October 4 is the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 3 presidential election. You can check your registration status here and get started on your registration if you are eligible and not already registered.

 

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Aug. 28, 2020

Back-to-school is in full gear for more districts across Texas, while others will not begin until after Labor Day. Whether you’re back in class or still getting ready to meet your new students,  check out this week’s education news from the ATPE Governmental Relations team:


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released official correspondence this week detailing the new COVID-19 case reporting requirements for on-campus students, staff, and teachers in schools. Weekly public reporting of the data on the Department of State Health Services website is expected to start at the end of September. TEA also updated several of its resources this week, including a language change on how districts should determine confirmed COVID-19 cases. For more detail, read ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier’s blog post.

ATPE’s COVID-19 FAQs and Resources page is always a good resource for educators looking for commonly asked questions and answers that our Member Legal Services team facilitates. Some topics have even been recorded as extremely informative webcasts – catch our educator rights webcast here and our more recent webcast on leave options and disability accommodations here. ATPE members can also use Advocacy Central to communicate with their elected officials . Don’t forget to take our survey on parent-teacher collaboration!


ELECTION UPDATE:  The race to fill Texas Senate District 30 heated up this week with three candidates making announcements that they plan to vie for the seat. The deadline to file is 5 p.m. today, Aug. 28.  If you live in this northeast Texas district, be sure to stay abreast of the news and get ready to vote in the special election on September 29! In other news, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy provided testimony before Congress this week, defending his decisions impacting the speed and reliability of the USPS during a critical election year. Read more about these developments in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.


School choice is emerging as a top talking point as the presidential election nears. The Trump campaign and numerous speakers at the Republican National Convention touted school choice this week, some even echoing the dubious statement that school choice is the “civil rights” issue of our time. While Trump says he will push for a national school voucher program, Biden makes clear that he opposes diverting public dollars from public neighborhood schools to private institutions. Read more about ATPE’s stance on the privatization of public education in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.


ATPE launched a new COVID-19 timeline this week that includes top events related to the pandemic and Texas education, from the federal level all the way down to certain school districts. The events start in early March and conveniently link to news articles and blog posts here on Teach the Vote. Read more about the timeline in this blog post by ATPE staff.

 


Laura Yeager

Public education advocate and parent Laura Yeager contributed a guest post to Teach the Vote this week on the importance of reliable and consistent funding for public schools. Even with the cost of education rising during the pandemic (think more PPE, cleaning, devices, etc.), districts will only be held harmless for drops in attendance for the first 12 weeks of this school year. A lack of consistent funding after this “COVID-19 cliff” puts our public schools and the communities they serve at great risk.


This week ATPE submitted public comments on proposed rules that would eliminate the expiration date on “Legacy Master Teacher” certificates. The State Board for Educator Certification’s (SBEC) proposed rules would fix the unintended consequences of last year’s House Bill 3, which have put some educators’ teaching assignments in jeopardy. Read more about the issue in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier.

Texas election roundup: North Texas Senate race takes shape and more

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) announced over the weekend there will be a special election Sept. 29 to replace outgoing state Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper), who is vacating his seat in the Texas Senate in order to run for U.S. Congress.

Fallon won the Republican nomination to replace U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX 4), who President Donald Trump appointed Director of National Intelligence. In the overwhelmingly Republican 4th Congressional District of Texas, Fallon is virtually guaranteed to win the general election in November.

Fallon sent a letter to Gov. Abbott on Saturday announcing his resignation effective Jan. 4 at midnight. Abbott’s proclamation states that the emergency special election is being set so quickly to ensure Senate District (SD) 30 is represented when the next legislative session begins in January. This marks an about-face from the governor’s decision-making when then-state Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) resigned her seat in order to run for Congress in 2018. The governor waited to set the special election for that seat, leaving voters in SD 6 without representation for several months at the beginning of the 86th Texas Legislature.

Candidates have until 5:00 p.m. Friday to file for the SD 30 special election, and several contenders have already announced their candidacy. State Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) was the first to announce his candidacy and has received endorsements from Sen. Fallon and several members of the Texas House and Texas Senate. Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther, who achieved notoriety among certain circles for her arrest in violation of state and local public health orders, has announced her intent to run. Denton Mayor Chris Watts has submitted his resignation as mayor and has established a campaign committee for SD 30. ATPE will be profiling each candidate in the special election here on Teach the Vote as their campaigns are launched. Early voting in the SD 30 special election will begin Monday, Sept. 14.

U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a GOP megadonor appointed to run the U.S. Postal Service in May, testified before Congress this week in response to an escalating scandal over ordering changes that have resulted in nationwide mail delays, which the postal service has warned could disrupt the delivery of mail-in ballots in the November election.

DeJoy promised to deliver election mail on time in November, but urged those voting by mail to request their ballots early and mail them in as soon as possible. DeJoy also defended his decisions to House and Senate committees and refused to put back more than 600 mail sorting machines that have been taken out of service and dismantled.

The agency and DeJoy’s actions have come under bipartisan scrutiny after President Trump stated in an interview on Fox Business Channel and a subsequent White House briefing earlier this month that he will oppose funding for the postal service in order to prevent it from being able to process mail-in ballots. On Saturday, U.S. House Democrats and 26 Republicans passed bipartisan legislation that would continue funding for the Postal Service and block DeJoy’s operational changes.

The Republican National Convention continues this week, with President Trump scheduled to close out the event with a speech Thursday night. The convention continued its focus on school privatization Wednesday by featuring a speech from a school voucher advocate before the primetime address by Vice-President Mike Pence, who emphasized that privatization would be a top priority for the administration in a second term.

“School choice” in the spotlight as presidential election approaches

The 2020 general election is rapidly approaching, with early voting slated to begin in Texas just over six weeks from now on October 13. Now that the presidential slate of candidates has been finalized, the focus is shifting to the candidates’ views on particular issues, including some related to education. One education-related issue, in particular, is being mentioned frequently.

President Donald Trump said Sunday, Aug. 23, he will make “school choice” a top priority if he is reelected for four more years in the White House. The Trump campaign followed up the next day with a 49-point bullet list that broadly outlines things the president hopes to do if reelected. The education section states, “Provide school choice to every child in America.” During the Republican National Convention taking place this week, First Lady Melania Trump also used her Tuesday night speech to highlight the president’s commitment to “fight for school choice to give parents the option to have their school flourish.”

While “choice” is an enticing word, and there are choices of varying educational settings that exist within the public school system, the phrase “school choice” has been used by private school proponents to market the defunding and privatization of public schools. Whether described as “school choice” or with more specific verbiage, the goal has been diverting public taxpayer dollars to private and for-profit entities through vouchers, tax credits, school choice “scholarships,” education savings accounts, and other initiatives. All of these proposals are designed to deny public schools the funding they desperately need to provide quality instruction to all students and transfer it instead to subsidize private entities that are not subject to state accountability standards, taxpayers, or voters. For many years, ATPE members have included a position in our Legislative Program expressing our association’s opposition to private school vouchers or “choice” initiatives. Currently, the ATPE Legislative Program most recently approved by our House of Delegates in July states, “ATPE opposes any program or initiative, tuition tax credit or voucher system that would direct public funds to private, home or for-profit virtual schools.”

This is not the first time President Trump has expressed support for privatization. “We’re fighting for school choice, which really is the civil rights of all time in this country,” the president said in a June 2020 speech about police reform and national protests over the killing of unarmed African-Americans. That same month, Trump accused schools of “extreme indoctrination” of children.

President Trump is also not the first to attempt to market private school vouchers by invoking the Civil Rights movement, despite the fact that vouchers originated as an attempt to avoid desegregation in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-Texas) made the same civil rights argument for school choice in the 2017 legislative session and blocked attempts at providing needed resources for public schools by tying their funding to a school voucher bill. It was the push for privatization and the failure to address school funding in 2017 that led educators to dominate the 2018 midterm elections, which temporarily halted the push for vouchers in Texas and paved the way for the 2019 school finance legislation, House Bill 3.

While the president may be showing a renewed emphasis on privatization, it is not a new issue for his administration. Trump appointed wealthy GOP megadonor and privatization activist Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education during his first year in office. DeVos faced criticism for her promotion of privatization in Michigan that resulted in a dysfunctional school system and the proliferation of low-quality charter schools. She has used her federal cabinet post to continue to push privatization, including using COVID-19 relief funds as an opportunity to promote private school voucher programs and to force public schools to spend an unprecedented amount of money on private school services.

As reported in in the Austin American-Statesman last month, Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden’s campaign has described his position on “school choice” as follows:

“Joe Biden opposes the Trump/DeVos conception of ‘school choice,’ which is private school vouchers that would destroy our public schools. He’s also against for-profit and low-performing charter schools, and believes in holding all charter schools accountable. He does not oppose districts letting parents choose to send their children to public magnet schools, high-performing public charters or traditional public schools.”

While ATPE does not endorse candidates, we encourage voters to learn more about their candidates’ views on public school funding and private school vouchers or “choice” programs. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and with the 2021 legislative session on the horizon, there have already been calls for expanding privatization initiatives right here in Texas. On Teach the Vote, we profile all candidates for the Texas Legislature and invite them to participate in ATPE’s candidate survey, which includes the following question:

“Would you vote to create any type of voucher, tax credit, scholarship, education savings account, or other program aimed at paying for students, including any subpopulation of students, to attend non-public K-12 schools, such as private or home schools?”

We also track incumbent legislators’ voting records, which have included votes on privatization bills in many prior legislative sessions. Use the search tool here on Teach the Vote to research your candidates’ views on private school vouchers and other education issues ahead of the November 3 election.

Texas election roundup: Postmaster General pauses disruption

The U.S. Postal Service warned Texas officials in July that it may be unable to deliver some mail-in ballots on time in order to meet the deadlines for them to be counted in the November 2020 presidential election. If nothing changes, the consequences for the roughly 7% of Texans who typically vote by mail in a presidential contest could be having their votes go uncounted.

This admission came after U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a megadonor President Donald Trump appointed to run the post office in May, began making changes that have resulted in mail delays around the country. At the same time, President Trump announced he would oppose funding for the USPS in order to prevent the mail service from being able to process mail-in ballots for the presidential election.

Under pressure from 20 states that have filed lawsuits against the USPS over the delays, DeJoy announced this week he would pause those changes for the rest of the year. DeJoy is scheduled to testify Friday before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

This week began convention season on the campaign trail, with Democrats holding a virtual convention to formally nominate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the 2020 Democratic ticket. The return to schools was high on the list of topics discussed at the Democratic National Convention, with Biden’s wife Dr. Jill Biden delivering a speech from inside a classroom at the high school were she once taught. The Republican National Convention will begin next week in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Republicans will formally nominate Donald Trump for reelection.

In Texas, Democratic candidates won a legal battle to keep Green Party candidates off the statewide November ballot. The lawsuit accused the candidates of being ineligible because they failed to pay the required filing fees. The Green Party has argued those filing fees are unconstitutional. Third-party candidates in Texas rarely exceed single digits in statewide elections, but they could win enough votes to shift the outcome of a close race between a Democrat and Republican.

A new Texas poll conducted by YouGov and Rice University in August shows Trump leading Biden by 5% among likely voters. The number is higher than most recent Texas polls that have shown a close race within the margin of error. The same poll shows U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) leading Democratic challenger MJ Hegar by 6%.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Aug. 14, 2020

Whether you started school or not this week, nearly everyone is switching into back-to-school mode. Unwind and stay up-to-date with this week’s education news from the ATPE Governmental Relations team:


Gov. Abbott speaks in El Paso, August 13, 2020. (Source)

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: On Saturday, August 8, Gov. Greg Abbott renewed the COVID-19 disaster declaration for the state of Texas. The declaration continues many of the special provisions, funding mechanisms, and waivers that have helped Texans get through the pandemic. Abbott traveled to Beaumont, Victoria, Lubbock, and El Paso this week to speak about COVID-19. He stressed remaining vigilant in best practices to avoid contracting COVID-19, said that bars were hot-spots and the state would need to meet certain metrics before they could reopen, and added that the state is investigating its high test positivity rate. With regard to schools, Abbott reiterated that it is up to school districts to provide remote, in-person, or hybrid models under the flexibilities (and limitations) offered by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

ATPE sent a letter to all Texas superintendents this week that included recommendations for how to respond to COVID-19, based on the communications ATPE has received from its membership. These recommendations include implementing a process to consider and make accommodations for staff health concerns; granting requested contract releases or refraining from filing complaints with the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) if a staff member resigns due to health concerns that cannot be accommodated; and providing paid leave for staff members who are ordered to quarantine.

ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins was featured in an article by the Texas Signal this week on the confusion that has surrounded a safe school reopening. With an order to open schools but details left up to local decision-makers, educators have gotten lost in the mix of constantly changing messages and guidelines. Wiggins said, “It is a tough situation for people who have dedicated their lives to serving children. In some cases, parents will have a choice for their kids to receive remote instruction, but educators don’t get that choice. Confusion doesn’t inspire confidence.”

The ATPE COVID-19 FAQs and Resources page has frequently-updated answers to common questions from educators. Also be sure to check out ATPE’s recent legal webinar on COVID-19 with explanations of many issues facing educators during the pandemic. ATPE members can also use Advocacy Central to communicate with their elected officials regarding concerns about school reopening and other issues.


ELECTION UPDATE: State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) was ceremonially sworn into office this week after formally taking the oath two weeks ago. Eckhardt will serve out the remainder of the term left vacant by former Sen. Kirk Watson through 2022. Meanwhile, a potential shakeup is brewing in Senate District (SD) 30 in North Texas. State Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) is expected to be promoted to the U.S. Congress, creating a vacancy for his Texas Senate seat that is drawing interest from many candidates, including some members of the Texas House of Representatives. This sets up a unique dilemma surrounding the mathematical majority in the chamber and the election of a new House Speaker in January.

In national news this week, Joe Biden selected his former presidential rival and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate. Harris is the first African-American woman and person of Asian-American descent in U.S. history to appear on a major political party’s presidential ticket, and was among the first in the Democratic presidential primary to call for a raise for teachers.

Finally, the U.S. Census is underway and will have a significant impact on how much power Texas holds in Congress. Read more about what’s at stake, as well as the rest of this week’s election news, in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.


ATPE Vice President Karen Hames participated in a virtual forum hosted by CBS Austin.

ATPE members have been speaking up for their students and fellow colleagues all over Texas this week! ATPE State Vice President and veteran middle school teacher Karen Hames was featured in a statewide virtual forum hosted by CBS Austin this week. During the Wednesday evening broadcast, Hames detailed how her school is approaching in-service days and the school year. She provided advice to parents as they begin school in a completely different environment, saying that a parent’s encouragement during virtual learning is “incalculable.”

ATPE member Myra Rodriguez-Berrones took part in a Q&A panel hosted by Sen. Zaffirini.

Zapata ISD Special Services Teacher and ATPE Member Myra Rodriguez-Berrones also participated in “Back to School? Your Questions Answered,” a Q&A panel hosted by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) on Wednesday. Berrones has spent 20 years serving children with special needs and the hard of hearing in Zapata ISD, and shared her thoughts on serving children with special needs in the COVID environment. Berrones also shared tips for engaging children at home, as well as increasing participation for parents of English learners. The panel included representatives from the Texas Education Agency, as well as speakers representing administrators, counselors, and school nurses. You can watch the full Q&A session here.


The Texas Senate Finance Committee released its interim report to the 87th legislature last week. The report comes at a time when committees in both chambers of the Texas legislature have not been able to meet for interim hearings due to COVID-19 concerns and closures. Having just received guidance not too long ago on how to conduct interim business amid the pandemic, many Texas House committees have now posted “formal requests for information” on their websites to gain information without holding a formal public hearing in person. Read more about the Senate Finance Committee report and the House requests for information in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.


Communication is key in every relationship. That’s why ATPE has partnered with several other education organizations to develop a public online toolkit with tips and suggestions that parents and educators can use during the challenges of virtual instruction. Use ATPE’s open submission form to submit tips from either a parent or educator perspective for classroom engagement, parent and student communication, and more!


The Texas Education Agency updated nearly all of its COVID-19 resources this week, just as some school districts across the state opened for in-person and remote instruction. The agency answered new questions regarding full-day pre-K requirements and funding, the optional and extended transition periods in the beginning of the year, and attendance and enrollment. TEA also created a new “Education Rights and Responsibilities” document for families that outlines what options for instruction and reminds parents of attendance requirements. Districts were notified this week of free training provided by OnRamps for those who are teaching in distance or hybrid learning environments. Additionally, as in the spring, districts will be required to report “crisis codes” for students based on whether the student is receiving in-person, remote synchronous, or remote asynchronous instruction. Lastly, the agency’s resources on educator preparation remind  certification candidates that, under the Governor’s disaster declaration, TEA can reduce face-to-face requirements by 20%. Similarly, the agency is advising educator preparation programs to process probationary certificates for candidates who cannot meet testing requirements (under the Governor’s waiver) as quickly as possible.