Texas is experiencing democracy in action, witnessing the massive March for Our Lives taking place in cities all over the state and country, in uplifting and moving expressions of grief, outrage, and determination, organized mainly by young people and children too young to even vote. The world is riveted and inspired by their example, and some are embarrassed that we haven’t acted sooner and more forcefully to stop school shootings and follow the “well regulated militia” proviso of the second amendment. Republican politicians are quaking in their boots, caught between the tide of public opinion and the power of overlords who pull their strings with money and threats of losing endorsements from the NRA. The young people protesting this corrupt system represent new faces in “what democracy looks like.”
Meanwhile, others are participating in county party conventions across the state and forums for run-off elections. I attended Hays County both as a candidate and as a delegate, to elect representatives for the state convention and vote on resolutions. I was gratified and not surprised to witness how carefully everyone listened to the wording and intent of these resolutions. A few caused some controversy, because people were carefully considering the meaning, language, and possible unintended consequences of these resolutions. Most were quickly and easily voted unanimously, but for a few we had some lengthy discussions. I came away from this meeting excited about the prospect of representing these wonderful people, learning about their views and choosing the legislation that mattered most to them and to me: expanding Medicaid, eliminating unfair policies and discriminatory practices, supporting teachers and schools, and leveling the playing field for workers and taxpayers. It was a room filled with enthusiasm, idealism, faith in humanity, and a powerful belief in the young people out protesting to make our country saner and safer for everyone.
Now the League of Women Voters and Democratic clubs in Hays and Blanco Counties are gearing up for run-offs, giving voters a last chance to decide on candidates. As a teacher, I hope voters will do their homework and look carefully at everyone’s background, experience and qualifications. Our choices matter, and we must pick the most qualified people. We cannot squander this opportunity to join the blue wave sweeping the nation in race after race. I am the candidate for Texas House District 45 who can win in November!
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.
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.