Tag Archives: elections

From The Texas Tribune: Analysis: School districts are getting report cards. They shouldn’t be the only ones.

Analysis: School districts are getting report cards. They shouldn’t be the only ones.” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

A “Come and Take It” flag depicting an apple instead of the traditional cannon at the Save Our Schools rally at the Texas Capitol on March 12, 2011. Photo by Bob Daemmrich.

It’s time to start grading the papers of the people elected to run the state of Texas, to translate voters’ thoughts and feelings about the way things are going into the job reviews that will be delivered in this year’s general election.

It’s the seasonal cycle of this electoral democracy. We elect them. They do stuff. We decide whether to keep or replace them.

Elected officials adore this sort of judgement when it’s directed at others.

Later today, for instance, the state will issue its inaugural set of A-F grades for more than 1,000 public school districts. That has agitated a lot of Texas educators; when the grades are out, odds are good that it will agitate — in ways both negative and positive — parents, business people and taxpayers. If the politicos are lucky, it will divert angst over public education in Texas away from the folks who’ll be on the November ballot.

Accountability is an admirable thing in politics. It can show citizens where responsibility lies, the better to direct their blame and, more to the point, where to repair or replace policies that don’t work.

It can also diffuse responsibility. When today’s school grades come out, keep an eye on who’s taking the heat and who’s getting the credit. Ask yourself, as it unrolls, whether the right people are getting the right kind of attention.

This is supposed to be a way for the government ministers in Austin and the public across the state to see what results they’re getting for their money. It’s controversial, to say the least. Educators contend the grading system is both too general — not taking the complexity of any given school district into account — and too reliant on standardized tests and other inappropriate yardsticks that don’t give accurate readings of educational progress. Many are not crazy about grades of any kind, but they’re irked that these grades, in their view, will give voters and policymakers false readings about school districts’ performance.

But for a Legislature that can’t muster a consensus for what public schools should do and what they should cost, it’s a way to outsource the blame from the pink building to local “educrats.”

It’s a pre-election test of whether voters trust politicians more than teachers.

Education isn’t the only forum for this sort of deflection. The telling sign is when the people at the top try to separate themselves from the people who work for them, a strategy that allows them to make policy and take credit for passing laws while also blaming someone else when the execution of those instructions falls short.

Maybe the blame should crawl up the management ladder; they’d rather you didn’t make the connection.

Rats, mold and other filth in state buildings? The budgeteers at the Capitol have been skimping on building maintenance and upkeep for years. Multi-billion-dollar contracting troubles at the Health and Human Services Commission? That sort of thing happens if you put all those disparate agencies into one pot and then wander off, forgetting the second part of the business maxim: “Put all your eggs in one basket — and then watch that basket very carefully.”

A federal “zero tolerance” immigration policy that splits adults and children at the border and then cannot reconnect them — whether they’re staying here or being sent home? That is, in fact, a bureaucratic nightmare. But it’s a product of bad design, of putting a policy in place before figuring out how it’s going to work. The blame for that kind of empty-headed governance belongs at or near the top of the organization chart. Roughly 500 of those kids are still unattached to the adults with whom they entered the country. That terrible foul-up took place at the border, but the credit and blame really belong to the high officials who got things rolling.

This is going to be a hard day for some school superintendents and school boards and a great day for others. In both situations, some of them deserve it. Some of them don’t. Examine the results. Make your own judgements. And when you pass out cheers and jeers, think of the people who are responsible for education policy who aren’t on today’s report cards.

They’ll be on your election ballot a few weeks from now.

 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2018/08/15/analysis-texas-school-report-card-election-2018/.

 

Texas Tribune mission statement

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Summer Activism: How can I continue to fight for our classrooms?

Congratulations, you made it to summer!

The students are gone, but every teacher knows the work never really stops, even when the temperatures soar. As it turns out, this summer is already shaping up to be a pretty active one when it comes to shaping public education policies that could make a big impact on classrooms next fall.

In fact, keeping on top of what’s happening this summer is critical to ensuring lawmakers start off on the right foot when they return to Austin in January to start making laws that affect your students, classrooms and profession. To that end, many ATPE members have asked what educators can do to stay on top of these important conversations this summer.

The good news is there’s plenty to do, and much of it can be done with minimal disruption to your summer schedule! Here’s a list of ways to keep engaged:

Be Social

Keeping up on your social media feeds is the best way to stay up to date on what conversations are going down where. Your ATPE governmental relations staff is busy going to important meetings where the future of public education is being discussed, and we’re posting what’s being talked about on Twitter. Good handles to follow are @OfficialATPE, @TeachTheVote, @ATPE_JenniferC, @ATPE_MontyE, @ATPE_KateK and yours truly, @MarkWigginsTX. Also check for updates on ATPE’s Facebook page. The more follows, likes and shares we get, the more clout we’ll have when we start mobilizing members during the legislative session.

Speak Up

There are dozens of meetings scheduled this summer where members of the public are allowed to testify about public education issues, letting lawmakers know where they stand. Next month, a special Senate committee is meeting to talk about school safety, and the House Public Education Committee is holding hearings on school safety and mental health next week. The Texas Commission on Public School Finance is scheduled to meet July 10 to discuss ways to fix the school finance system. The State Board of Education (SBOE) just wrapped up their June meeting, but they’ll be back in September. If you want to know more about how to testify, just call or e-mail your ATPE governmental relations department; but you don’t have to travel to Austin to be heard. Reaching out to the people elected to represent you via letters, email, and phone calls can be just as effective. You can often them just down the street at their local district offices during this time year as well, if you want to talk to them face to face without ever leaving home.

Volunteer

The most important way to make sure we secure adequate funding, resources and respect for the teaching profession is by electing pro-public education candidates to office. You can find out who supports public education by checking out our Candidates page. The November 6 election is the biggest and last opportunity between now and the next legislative session to do that. Even though July and August are typically slow months for political campaigns, those campaigns are always looking for people to block walk, make phone calls and put up signs. Volunteering during the dog days is also a great way to get to know candidates and staff on a personal level, since they’re usually very grateful for the help!

Donate

Unfortunately, money still matters in the world of politics. Campaigns rely on it and so do political action committees (PACs). People are grateful for donations any time, and summer is no exception. For most educators, pooling your money with other donors through a PAC offers you an opportunity to get the best bang for the buck. For example, during the primaries, 72 percent of the candidates who received a donation form the ATPE-PAC went on to win their election. In the primary runoffs that number jumped to 80 percent.

Preach the Word

Summer is a time for barbecues, grilling out and social gatherings. We’ve all been general brought up to avoid talking politics, but the future of our schools is something that should rise above partisanship. Are your friends also stressed about paying too much in property taxes? Do they know that fixing the school finance system by ensuring the state pays its fair share of the burden would go a long way in fixing that? What about testing — are other parents just as fed up with the overemphasis on STAAR? Let them know the hard work you and ATPE are doing to advocate for solutions to these problems and let them know about Teach the Vote! We created the site for everyone who cares about the future of public education because we need everyone’s help to make sure we get  the right people in office to fix these and many other issues, such as teacher health care and compensation.

We’re gearing up for a scorcher, but educators can’t afford to spend too much time in the shade. Every little bit helps us to avoid getting burned next session!

Great night for public education in primary runoffs

The votes are in – and pro-public education candidates had a great night across Texas!

Many Texas educators spent the past two months wearing red, volunteering, making phone calls, working the polls, and investing their own personal resources helping these campaigns. Their hard work paid off in spades Tuesday night. In the final tally, 80% of the runoff candidates backed by ATPE-PAC or ATPE Direct won their elections by a whopping average of 22.5 percentage points. Conversely, candidates who were financed by anti-public education pressure groups lost all but a single race.

Statewide turnout figures for the Republican runoffs isn’t available, and statewide turnout in the Democratic runoff was just 2.8 percent. This means that every vote was immensely important, and educators who performed their civic duty by voting in the runoffs likely made the key difference in many of these races.

Retiring Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), who championed public education legislation in the Texas House, was also active in backing candidates who vowed to stand up for public schools. As the numbers pointed to victory for public education Tuesday night, Speaker Straus issued a statement congratulating the candidates who won their runoffs.

“Once again, Republican primary voters have shown overwhelming support for responsible candidates who will put their communities first and take a serious approach to the state’s challenges,” said Straus. “The results in these runoffs and in the March primaries clearly demonstrate that Republican voters want constructive and pragmatic leadership for our fast-growing state.”

The results from runoff in elections in the Texas House are as follows:

House District 4 (R)
Keith Bell: 59%
Stuart Spitzer: 41%

House District 8 (R)
Cody Harris: 57%
Thomas McNutt: 43%

House District 13 (R)
Ben Leman: 57%
Jill Wolfskill: 43%

House District 37 (D)
Alex Dominguez: 57%
Rep. Rene Oliveira: 43%

House District 45 (D)
Erin Zwiener: 51%
Rebecca Bell-Metereau: 49%

House District 46 (D)
Sheryl Cole: 51%
Jose “Chito” Vela: 49%

House District 47 (D)
Vikki Goodwin: 58%
Elaina Fowler: 42%

House District 54 (R)
Brad Buckley: 58%
Rep. Scott Cosper: 42%

House District 62 (R)
Reggie Smith: 71%
Brent Lawson: 29%

House District 64 (D)
Andrew Morris: 54%
Mat Pruneda: 46%

House District 107 (R)
Deanna Maria Metzger: 56%
Joe Ruzicka: 44%

House District 109 (D)
Carl Sherman: 64%
Deshaundra Lockhart Jones: 36%

House District 121 (R)
Steve Allison: 58%
Matt Beebe: 42%

House District 133 (D)
Marty Schexnayder: 56%
Sandra G. Moore: 44%

Elsewhere, Rita Lucido defeated Fran Watson by 16 percentage points to become the Democratic nominee and challenge state Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) in Senate District 17. Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez defeated Mark White, a Houston businessman and the son of the late former Gov. Mark White, in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Thank you to everyone who volunteered, contributed, and showed up to vote in these important elections! Educators have gone to great lengths this election season to promote a culture of voting in school districts across Texas, and the work has only just begun. Campaigns will now turn toward the November 6 General Election, when Texas voters will make their final decisions as to who will represent them at the state and federal levels.

Are you ready for the May 22 runoffs?

If you’re a frequent reader of our blog, you know that ATPE’s lobby team often writes about the importance of primary elections in Texas. In fact, most of our state’s elected officials are seated as a result of primary election results instead of the general election that occurs in November. This is a result of redistricting that happens every decade, when electoral maps are redrawn, often in a strategic manner that will allow the political party holding that seat at the time to have an advantage in keeping that seat in future elections. Some districts favor one political party so heavily that races to fill those seats may only attract candidates from a single political party, meaning that the entire contest is decided by the primary. Many of those races conclude in March, but sometimes a runoff is required if no candidate earns a majority of the vote in the initial primary.

Here in Texas, we’ve got an important primary runoff election scheduled for May 22, 2018. That’s why ATPE is encouraging you to read about the runoff elections coming up this month and find out if you’re eligible to vote in one or more of the runoffs. Those eligible to vote in this runoff election include certain registered voters who participated in March’s primary elections, as well as registered voters who did not vote in either of the previous party primaries.

Eligibility for voting in the primaries is as easy as matching apples to apples and oranges to oranges.  If you voted in a March primary, you must vote in the same party’s primary runoff election. For example, if you voted in the Republican primary in March, you may only vote in a Republican primary runoff election in May. If you voted in the Democratic primary in March, you may only vote in a Democratic primary runoff election. However, if you are a registered voter who did not participate in either of the party’s primaries back in March, then you are still eligible to participate in the runoff election, but you must choose which primary runoff to participate in. You cannot vote in both primary runoffs or vote in the runoff of the party opposite the primary you chose back in March.

Early voting for the runoffs will take place May 14 – 18, 2018. Runoff election day is May 22, 2018. Most polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on voting days, but you should check the times and locations locally to find information on your polling place.  Don’t forget to bring an acceptable form of identification with you when you vote, and print out any notes ahead of time, as cell phones must be turned off at the polls.

To help you learn about your choices at the polls, ATPE shares profiles here on Teach the Vote for all candidates running for the Texas House, Texas Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or State Board of Education. The profiles help educators and other voters find out more about the candidates’ stances on education issues, in particular. This month ATPE is also spotlighting on our Teach the Vote blog a few of the runoff races where education has emerged as a preeminent topic. Check out highlights of these races using the links below:

To view a list of all the runoff candidates whose profiles are featured on Teach the Vote, check out this related blog post. If you have additional questions about runoff voting or candidates please contact ATPE Governmental Relations or call 1-800-777-ATPE.

May elections – A Texas two-fer

Most everyone knows about the general election in November, and more folks are becoming aware of the importance of the March primaries, but May is also an important, albeit confusing election month. Like November, May hosts a general uniform election date. This year that election is on Saturday, May 5th. But the month of May, also hosts the separate primary runoff election date, which this year is on Tuesday, May 22nd.

In addition to municipal ballot issues, many of the school districts around the state hold their school board and school bond elections on the May 5th uniform election date. These are important elections that set the tone for the local policy decisions and funding of your community’s public schools. As a part of adopting an overall culture of voting, Texas educators should always vote during this election.

What is not on the May 5th ballot are any state or federal candidates. Those candidates* are on the May 22nd primary runoff ballot. This year’s state level runoff races include:

Governor                         D           Andrew White vs. Lupe Valdez

SBOE 12                         D          Suzanne Smith vs. Laura Malone-Miller

Senate District 17           D           Rita Lucido vs. Fran Watson

House District 4              R           Keith Bell vs. Stuart Spitzer

House District 8              R           Cody Harris vs. Thomas McNutt

House District 13            R           Jill Wolfskill vs. Ben Leman

House District 37            D           Rene Oliveira vs. Alex Dominguez

House District 45            D           Rebecca Bell-Metereau vs. Erin Zwierner

House District 46            D           Chito Vela vs. Sheryl Cole

House District 47            D           Vikki Goodwin vs. Elaina Fowler

House District 54            R           Scott Cosper vs. Brad Buckley

House District 62            R           Reggie Smith vs. Brent Lawson

House District 64            D           Mat Pruneda vs. Andrew Morris

House District 107          R           Joe Ruzicka vs. Deanna Maria Metzger

House District 109          D           Deshaundra Lockhart Jones vs. Carl Sherman

House District 121          R           Steve Allison vs. Matt Bebe

House District 133          D           Sandra Moore vs. Marty Schexnayder

*To see more about each candidate, click on the candidate’s name above.

While everyone who is registered to vote can cast a ballot in the May 5th election, you must be eligible to vote in the May 22nd runoff election. So who is eligible and qualified to vote in the runoffs? The simple answer is anyone who is registered to vote and who did not vote for the opposing party during the March primary election. Some examples:

  • If you voted in the Republican primary election in March, you are eligible to vote in the Republican runoff in May.
  • If you didn’t vote at all in the March primary, you ARE eligible to vote in either runoff election (but not both) on May 22nd.
  • If you voted in the Republican primary election in March, you would not be eligible to vote in the Democratic runoff election in May.

Regardless of who you vote for in March or May, you may vote for a candidate of any party or even independent candidates in November. Your (wise) decision to vote in a partisan primary in March/May is in no way binding on your November ballot.

If you have additional questions about voting or candidates please contact ATPE Governmental Relations or call 1-800-777-ATPE