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When I was in college at the University of Texas, I majored in government and minored in history. For three of my years as an undergrad, I worked as a runner at a law firm in downtown Austin. Each day, I would walk from my dorm room to the law firm. The Capitol building was halfway between the two, and I often stopped inside to watch deliberations on the floor of the House and Senate on my way to work.

Sometimes, I sat in the gallery and did my homework. Yes, I was a nerd … and still am. It struck me as amazing that anyone could walk into the Capitol and see democracy in action, and that anyone could go testify on a bill or visit the offices of a state leader. What an amazing country. Little did I know at the time that I would one day be working in the pink building advocating for public education. I have also had occasion to be in the U.S. Capitol to advocate for public education.

I love that building and everything it stands for — democracy, freedom, a rich and complex history, a shining beacon on a hill. What a sad chapter in our nation’s history that some Americans stormed our nation’s Capitol and violently threatened our democracy and our elected leaders to overturn a free and fair election. The freedom for anyone to peacefully engage in democracy and observe it in person was threatened forever.

Fortunately, our nation and democracy have survived, but we should all be put on high alert that we cannot take democracy for granted. Our nation is still an experiment in democracy, and it takes all of our participation to protect it. Regardless of party or affiliation, we Americans have always stood for democracy. Right now, it’s more important than ever that we do everything in our power to protect it.

That brings me to the current legislative session. The pandemic has made it more difficult, but no less important, to engage during the session. Once again, public education will be in the forefront. Will public education be fully funded, or will we endure cuts like the ones in 2011 that impacted student achievement for a decade? Will the state try to take away our critical local fund balances to cover its own obligations? Will there be a voucher bill? Will community censorship bills prevent school districts and education associations like TASA from advocating on your behalf? These are just a few of the important issues we will face this session.

In some cases, we will be in the Capitol building, testifying on your behalf and asking some of you to do the same. However, the limited access to the Capitol means that we need our members to engage with your locally elected leaders at home more than ever. Whether it’s visiting via Zoom, making phone calls, or meeting at a local office, we hope you will let your local leaders know how you feel about the issues facing your school district. Thank you for being champions for public education and helping to preserve the nation we love.

-TASA Executive Director Kevin Brown, Ed.D.