Sex, Guns and What’s My Role?

Teachers nowadays find themselves acting as surrogate parents, with more and more real parents working multiple jobs just to make ends meet.  Not everyone can make sure that homework gets done or that their children know how to interact with others in a school or social settings with adults. Today’s young people spend so much time on social media that they may not be comfortable participating in face-to-face conversation or the kind of give-and-take expected in the classroom. The other day, I was about to discuss a student group’s research and quotations to make sure they used peer-reviewed scholarly sources. A group member quickly piped up: “I’m not comfortable having our group’s work discussed with the whole class. You didn’t warn us this would happen.” I found myself somewhat flummoxed and scrapped the day’s lesson plan, which was to go over each small group’s quotes with the entire class, to make sure everyone had chosen legitimate peer-reviewed sources.

Looking back, I realized I should have said, “You’re not here to feel comfortable; you’re here to learn.” Unfortunately, both families and schools are less worried about learning than they are about comfort, convenience and cost. The roles of teachers and functions of education are being altered in some harmful ways. The legislature made the decision to eliminate the required health class, which all of us probably remember—the one where girls watched films about menstruation and who knows what the boys watched. The class also recommended on diet and exercise, hygiene, and a number of other truly important skills that are not necessarily covered in every home. This is a change I want to make when I win the seat in the Texas House of Representatives for District 45. We will re-institute this sensible curriculum requirement for graduation and save the lives and futures of students, many of whom are suffering from obesity, anxiety, and lack of common sense information about sex, a healthy diet, proper hygiene, and mental health.

Instead of using education to enhance and perhaps save students’ lives, some Republican lawmakers want to have more guns on campus and eliminate gun-free zones for students in public schools. A few even propose having teachers purchase handguns and concealed carry licenses, taking on the role of first responder in a shooter situation at school. Not many teachers choose a career in education in order to shoot a gun. They might be happy to spend their own money to buy school supplies for the kid whose parents can’t afford them, but they did not sign up for the role of police officer or first responder. Let’s have teachers and law enforcement officers stay in their lanes, sticking to their traditional roles and doing what they do best. Allow and encourage teachers to teach students the daily life-saving habits and techniques they need to lead safe and productive lives, to interact with each other in healthy and productive ways that will ensure educated citizens living in safe and happy communities.

Women’s March Redux — Texas Edition

Exactly a year ago, I was at the Women’s March in Washington D.C. with my friend and colleague, Kitty Ledbetter. We got there on Inauguration Day, the day before the march, and we were shocked by how empty the place seemed to be. No one on public transportation and not many people in restaurants. Then the next day, all public transport and streets were flooded with people—so many that we were almost afraid of being crushed at one point. Then they opened all the barricades between streets and people filled all of those streets, walking toward the mall. Strolling along, singing, chanting “This is what democracy looks like,” taking care of each other, offering homemade cookies, laughing and talking with the police. It was a glorious lovefest of people shouting their outrage at the awful turn of events, but at the same time expressing nothing but love and empowerment to each other and to everyone we encountered.

The Austin Women’s March had that same magical feeling to it, with everyone talking as if we were all old friends. I saw so many people from San Marcos and Hays County, Austin, and Seguin. I saw friends from Feminists United, various democratic clubs, and many of the groups that supported my past campaigns for State Board of Education.

It was inspiring to hear Representative Donna Howard and Senator Wendy Davis speak, giving such dynamic, intelligent, and idealistic speeches about the struggle to bring health care, women’s rights, and justice for all people in Texas. I misted up a little when Wendy talked about the glory of fighting for a cause and losing, but getting up and trying again. That is the kind of courage I want to have until the day I die. That is how we should all live our lives, daring to take on what may seem idealistic or even impossible. That’s the way we make progress. In time, we win, despite every setback, because we persisted.

When LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act, he thought it would lose the south for Democrats for a generation, but he did it anyway, because it was the right thing to do. I’m sure he would be shocked at how long Democrats would be sidelined, but the times are changing, and time’s up. If making national progress on civil rights lost the South for Democrats in the past, it is now the issue that will turn the tide, with changing demographics and new attitudes.

I will do everything in my power to provide a fair share of our state’s bounty, rights, and resources to neglected and marginalized young people, women, people of color, LGBTQ, rural counties, working people—all those who have been under-served, ignored and exploited by this self-serving regime. It will be my privilege to listen to all our citizens and represent them enthusiastically and effectively as state representative for District 45.

Great news … then outrageous news!

I got some wonderful news to help close out 2017. Yesterday evening I got word that I received the endorsement of the Texas AFL-CIO Austin Area Central Labor Council. I am the sole candidate for State Representative for District 45 to receive their endorsement.

I would like to share with you how I replied to their question: “What is the biggest challenge facing Texas now?”

The biggest challenge facing Texas now is the overwhelming influence of wealthy special interests, which will try to exploit our work force, natural resources, and educational system in order to line their own pockets through privatization and private contracts that favor rich cronies and corporations.

Then this morning, I read this American-Statesman article about the Texas Education Agency canceling a $4.4 million no-bid contract that was allegedly awarded improperly. The recipient was to perform “data mining” to figure out how to meet the needs of special-education students but has little experience in special education.

 

When I ran for the State Board of Education, which is part of TEA, I raised the issue of past cronyism, and I pointed out how TEA failed to meet the needs of special-education students.

The State Board of Education has few oversight powers over TEA, but the legislature does. That’s why I’m working so hard to get elected to the Texas House of Representatives, where I will do all I can to ferret out corruption and meet the needs of Texas children.

The AFL-CIO’s endorsement boosts my energy and this latest example of cronyism at the Texas Education Agency renews my commitment.

Have a happy and safe New Year, everyone, and may 2018 be the year of change and renewal we hope for.

Why I’m running for Texas House

Friends stopped by to show their support as I filed to run in the Democratic Primary for State Representative for Hays and Blanco counties.

Today, I filed as a candidate in the March 6, 2018 Democratic Primary for the Texas House of Representatives from District 45. The District comprises Blanco and Hays counties. Here’s why I’m running.

Eight years ago, I was inspired to run for the State Board of Education. Extremists on the board were imposing their religious and ideological views on what’s taught to our children in science, history, health, and English classes. As an educator whose research includes best teaching practices, I knew I could do better.

So I ran as a Democrat in a 13-county district that had been gerrymandered to elect a Republican. I ran three times—in 2010, 2012 and 2016—doing better in each successive race.

Now it’s the legislature that’s in danger of being dominated by extremists. This summer, the Texas Senate passed a number of extreme measures: bills that overturned the power of cities to pass laws to protect their citizens; a bill that interfered with teachers’ and other workers’ ability to organize, a bill that would have instituted private-school vouchers for the first time, a bill that would have required a transgender person to use the bathroom corresponding to their birth certificate.

All of these bill were stopped in the Texas House under the leadership of  Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio). Speaker Straus was first elected in 2009 in a bipartisan manner by a vote of the entire House. At the time, Republicans held 76 seats and Democrats 74. Despite Republican gains since then, Speaker Straus won re-election each session, but he recently announced he will retire. Unless all of us do whatever we can, this could be the end of the Texas House as a moderating influence on legislation in Texas.

A week ago, the Republican House members gathered and voted unanimously to select the next Speaker by a vote within their own caucus before the entire House has a chance to meet. This proposed end run around the Texas Constitution overturns decades of bipartisanship in that body. To counter this, we must elect more Democrats to the Texas House.

As an educator who understands the importance of public education and higher education, as a citizen who has been active in city and environmental issues, as a woman who values having control over her own health decisions, and as an individual committed to the rights of all, I feel that I can make a positive difference as a citizen-legislator.

As a candidate who is used to uphill battles, who has spent hundreds of hours listening to people all over central Texas, who has won thousands of votes, and who has hundreds of supporters whom I believe can be mobilized in this effort, I feel that I am the Democrat who can win in District 45 in November 2018.

Many of us here in Texas have been waiting for a tipping point. What’s happening nationally led to dramatic wins last month in state and local elections outside of Texas. Now it’s our turn. Let’s make the most of it.