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After 33 years in public education, I am awed and inspired by everyone who works in our public schools. Miracles happen every day in every school, and our educators, administrators and support staff deserve immense gratitude, respect and recognition for everything they do to support our students, communities, families, economy and democracy. In my opinion, educators have the most important jobs in our society, and we should be erecting statues in their honor.

Unfortunately, educators consistently fail in one area. They don’t vote in large numbers, especially in primary elections — the most important elections we have, especially in Texas.

There have been a couple of exceptions. In 1986, Texas educators, angry about HB 72 (teacher career ladder/no pass, no play), showed up at the polls and ousted Gov. Mark White. In 2018, educators again showed up at the polls in large numbers, and in my opinion, that resulted in the largest infusion of funding for public schools in state history.

Elections matter. Who votes matters. Who wins matters. The result of educators’ lack of voting, as of late anyway, seems to have resulted in the dismal support of public education we see from many elected leaders.

This spring’s primary elections could be the most consequential elections ever for the future of public education, and therefore the future of our state. As citizens in our democracy and role models for our students, it is incumbent upon every educator to be registered to vote, be informed of the issues, and show up for the primaries. Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, or an independent, it is your obligation as a citizen to participate in elections.

With approximately 750,000 current public school employees and 500,000 public school retirees, that’s about 1.25 million eligible voters who have served in public schools. Consider, for comparison’s sake, that less than 2 million Texans voted in the 2022 Republican primary, and just over 1 million voted in the Democratic primary. Educators could be the largest block of voters in our state if we would just show up and vote!

My fellow educators, it is time to put up or shut up. It is time to register to vote (hopefully you did so before the February 5 voter registration deadline), be informed, and vote in the primary of your choice, the primary runoff if there is one, and the general election in November. It is time to use your “teacher voice,” because some of our elected state leaders have forgotten the important role that our public schools play in our communities and in Texas’ future.

Please do your homework and vote during early voting by March 1 or on Primary Election Day March 5. In some cases, there will be a primary runoff on May 28, and the number of voters will be even smaller, making every vote more critical.

Be sure to encourage friends, family, and colleagues to vote as well. But also be sure, while speaking with others at work, that you refrain from being partisan, issue-oriented, or candidate-specific. Every person needs to do their own homework and come to their own conclusions about who will best represent them. However, as long as we live in our American democracy, it’s imperative that citizens exercise their right to vote.

-TASA Executive Director Kevin Brown, Ed.D.