There’s more to teaching than what you do in the classroom. You’re subject to state laws, such as those described in this guide, and you benefit from state funding. So not only should you keep up with state issues, it’s in your best interest to take an active role in influencing them. With continuing attacks on teacher rights and benefits, it is more important than ever to become politically active.
The best way to make the teaching profession more effective, attractive and professional is to partner with TCTA in maintaining relationships with your state lawmakers. Helping the “good guys” get elected, keeping them in office, and making sure they know what teachers are thinking are all crucial aspects to ensuring you have the tools you need to give your students the best possible education.
This fall, teachers have a great opportunity to get involved by participating in state legislative elections. After November, it will be important to develop and maintain relationships with your elected lawmakers.
Campaign season is in full swing during the fall. If you’re aware of a candidate you would like to support, getting involved early is a great way to become known and establish the groundwork for a long-term working relationship.
Cover all of “the basics” outlined below; if you would like to help a particular candidate get elected, take at least three actions in the “what’s next” section.
Know your election dates. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. The deadline to register to vote was Oct. 5. Whether you vote early, by mail or on Election Day, cast a ballot and make sure your vote is counted. You can find your polling location, early voting information and see what is on the ballot in your area at Vote411.org or VoteTexas.gov.
Identify the candidates. Go to TCTA’s TexasTeachersVote.org.
website for information on the candidates for the Texas Legislature in your districts. The site includes links to candidate websites and social media, their responses to TCTA’s candidate survey and incumbents’ voting records on key education issues.
Check candidates’ voting records and/or education issue positions. Look at the “Issues” page of the candidates’ websites and watch debates and town hall meetings to learn about their goals for public schools and teachers. Pay careful attention to the language they use. “School choice” means vouchers, “local control” or “deregulation” may mean a loss of teacher legal protections, and “payroll protection” means the end of your ability to pay for association dues via payroll deduction.
Now that you’ve determined there is a teacher-friendly candidate you would like to support, here’s how you can help:
The best time to make contact with your state senators and representatives is before the start of the legislative session. Whether you write, call or visit (in person or virtually), it’s always best to start with a thank you, identify yourself as a constituent, tell a little about yourself, then get to the point of the communication.
Map out the issues you’d like to cover and do your homework. Legislators expect you to be an expert on classroom issues, not state law, but having some familiarity with the basics is a must. Always be professional; try to relate all issues, including those concerning teacher pay and benefits, back to your students; and be concise. If you’ve scheduled a face-to-face visit, follow up with a thank-you note.
TCTA avoids providing form letters for our members — research and experience tell us that policymakers routinely ignore such communications. Individual communications relating personal experiences are the best way to get a point across. TCTA provides you with the background information you need to get started, and we’re happy to answer any specific questions you may have before you make those legislative contacts.
Gov. Greg Abbott
The Honorable Greg Abbott
Office of the Governor
PO Box 12428, Austin, TX 78711-2428
Information and Referral Hotline: 800-843-5789
Web-based email form: www.gov.texas.gov/contact
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
The Honorable Dan Patrick
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
PO Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711-2608
Web-based email form: www.ltgov.state.tx.us/contact/
All state senators
The Honorable (Full Name)
PO Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711-2068
Web-based email form at senate.texas.gov
(on senator’s page)
All state representatives
The Honorable (Full Name)
Texas House of Representatives
PO Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768-2910
Web-based email form at house.texas.gov
(on representative’s page)