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When educators speak up for public education, people listen. When they vote, good things happen for our children. But when they don’t speak up and don’t vote, history has shown us that bad things happen. It really is that simple.

Texas’ 86th legislative session is now in the history books. We are still trying to figure out its full impact on public education. While the session was far from perfect, and while I think the Legislature could have done much better than it did for public education, I do applaud lawmakers for making significant strides.

HB 3 was passed to provide additional funding for public schools, pay raises for employees, full day pre-K for our neediest students, expanded professional development, and a reduction in recapture and property taxes. TRS was also better funded (though the final bill puts some pressure on public schools and educators). Retirees will get a 13th paycheck, and districts impacted by Hurricane Harvey will receive some much-needed help.

Additionally, we were able to defeat a lot of bad bills, such as those that would have allowed for outcomes-based funding (funding schools based on third-graders’ test scores), a prohibition on school districts/municipalities from advocating for local needs, and standardized testing for kindergartners, among many others.

We increased transparency requirements for charter schools and ensured that they have a common application to reduce bad practices related to “selecting” students. We raised important questions about the readability of STAAR and EOC tests, and we were able to make significant improvements to numerous other bills.

The entire tone of the legislative session changed even before it started back in November. Supporters of public education won more seats in both parties than their opponents. For the most part, legislators seemed to treat this as a wake-up call.

Perfection is the enemy of good. This session was far from perfect, but the net effect was good, because people spoke up and showed up where it matters most — at the polls.

Let’s not wait another three decades to vote in full force. Let’s create a culture where voting is a habit for 100% of educators, 100% of the time.

There are those who don’t want you to vote. They might try to intimidate you or make you feel that encouraging people to vote is wrong or improper.

But as long as this is America, and as long as we live in a democracy, this former government teacher encourages you to keep informed and vote your conscience.

No matter what the naysayers tell you, voting does make a difference. And when you’re talking about educating Texas’ youngest citizens, our newest generation, the ones we will look to to keep our state headed in the right direction, it’s hard to fathom a more important cause to rally behind.