In his weekly “Watchdog” article in the Dallas Morning News on November 19, Dave Lieber decided to join Empower Texas and others who have recently criticized initiatives across the state encouraging educators and students to vote. I find the basic premise of their arguments, namely that tax dollars are being used to promote a voting platform, to be lacking in any real fact based analysis. Instead, the intent of some is to do all that they can to question an effort that will increase the number of voters casting ballots in the March primary.
Lieber, who is certainly no friend of public education and has a great deal of disdain for elected school boards, at least does make an effort to understand what is being said in forums such as the recent TASB/TASA Convention. As an attendee, he likes to cherry pick content and to use it for his specific purposes, namely to continue to bash those involved in public education. I respect his right to do so (although I have to question his motives in most of his Watchdog articles) but he clearly is in the business of selling headlines, not wanting to let facts get in the way of a good story.
I got to thinking a bit more about initiatives such as Texas Educators Vote and the efforts of Texans for Public Education. I quickly came to the conclusion that these efforts are perhaps the greatest evidence of Civics 101 that we have seen in quite a while. In my opinion, there are a couple of reasons that voter turnout is as low as it is with Texas being among the lowest in the country. One is the age old argument by some that their vote doesn’t really count so why bother? The second is that they really don’t know anything about the candidates or the issues so cannot cast an informed vote.
The “get out the vote” efforts are precisely focused on those two issues. With public education under attack and with a base of perhaps 700,000 public educators who may or may not be engaged in the voting process, this is no longer an issue of an individual’s vote not counting. When combined with those of the other voters, the numbers can have a significant impact on the outcome of an election and that’s where the LG, the Governor, Empower Texans and so many others get concerned … and they should be!
On the second argument, people suggesting that they don’t vote because they don’t understand the issues or know anything about candidates, the “get out the vote” effort is also an effort to ensure that those eligible to vote know what the issues are, how they will impact public education, and how those elected to serve are positioning themselves relative to public education. Again, those opposed to these initiatives don’t want to let the facts get in the way of a good story.
For my “vote”, I see goodness in the continued challenge of these initiatives. The more the efforts remain in the headlines, the better those impacted by actions in Austin will understand the ramifications. It’s my hope that this will add to the motivation of educators to get (and remain) engaged and to vote to ensure that the state fulfills its obligation in making education a priority.