Austin Rally 2017
This is the text from our very first rally. We had 2000 teachers show up on the steps of t
he state capitol to protest the fact that education was not on the agenda for the special session scheduled to begin the next day.
Good afternoon. My name is Troy Reynolds, and I’m the founder of Texans for Public Education, and I am a proud public school educator.
In a few minutes, our distinguished guests, who are much more versed than I am at the ins and outs of Texas education policy, will speak to a few of the issues in the special session which begins tomorrow. I’d say we’d cover every issue presented by this legislature which constitutes a threat to Texas education, but it’s hot, and we don’t have all day.
My topic, however, is not about profiteers who wish to line their pockets with tax dollars through privatization of our public schools. Instead, I am here, as an educator, to own my responsibility in our current predicament. You see, the reason things have gotten this bad is my fault. It is your fault. It is the fault of all of us in this profession, and we have failed ourselves, our children, and our communities. Today, at this rally, it is time to commit to rectifying that failure.
We have failed twice over. First, ask any legislator, and if he or she is honest, you will be told that teacher votes don’t matter. Teacher votes don’t matter because only FIVE PERCENT of us actually voted in the last off-year election. LESS voted in the primaries, where most Texas races are decided. Of those who voted, they did NOT use education as a litmus test for their votes. Instead, those votes split down the middle according to party lines because, time and time again, we allow ourselves to become distracted when parties dangle federal issues in front of us that don’t matter. What do I mean by issues that don’t matter?
I’m speaking of issues that a state government does not have the authority to change. Our last gubernatorial election was decided almost completely on federal issues when state government is about infrastructure…schools, prisons, roads, utilities…and the taxes it takes to maintain them. When state governments attempt to venture into federal territory, they get slapped down by the federal court system time and time again, yet state candidates and parties continue to dangle this bait in front of us, and time and time again, we go for it. Teachers, then, have a reputation for being either too apathetic to vote, or too divided to matter.
We have also failed to use our God-given talents to educate, both ourselves and others. We allow people like our Lt. Governor to misrepresent the school finance system and blame property taxes on local municipalities, when in reality, the state has created an ad valorem tax by laundering money through the school property tax so that it can pay for other programs. We do not preach from the mountaintop that when the state presents itself as a benefactor in creating educational savings accounts for special needs students, it is actually facilitating taking away the rights of our most fragile population. This must change. We no longer have the luxury of sitting back and convincing ourselves that public education is a sacred cow. In 2010, Rupert Murdoch referred to public education as a $500 billion dollar resource that has yet to be tapped into. Many people in this building and their contributors were listening. If we are truly motivated by what is best for our children, we, as experts in the field, must rise up in defense of our field. Because of this, I vow here before you today, and I ask you to vow with me to remain focused. To refuse to be distracted. To pay attention to what is happening with our field. …and most of all, to refuse to allow party dogma and affiliation to dictate our vote. I will abide by the mission of our group. For those who do not know, Texans for Public Education is about block voting. We rate politicians solely upon their educational stance, and we all vote together according to those positions. I am aware that I will have to vote for people in “the other party.” But once the group decides on a rating, I will abide by it. A message to our Lt. Governor and those who attack our profession: we are 14,000 strong, and we are continuing to grow. You might think you have us as part of your demographic, but you need to understand that you can no longer count on us to vote the party line. Any official who supports public education will have our donations, our support, our time to volunteer, and anything else they need to stay in office. Any enemy of public education will only have our enmity, and certainly not our votes. Texas says teacher unions are illegal, and we may only have professional organizations, but a union means unity, and am here to tell you that we have unified! We will speak with one voice! No fee, no due, no organization binds us, but a purpose to defend our children and our schools does. There are 1.2 million TRS members in the state of Texas. When the voices of all of us, along with the parents and community members who support us, rise up in the next election, first they will fear us, then, finally, they will hear us. Spread the word! Talk politics! Inform your friends and family. Tell them what is going on, and save our schools! God bless all of you for being here, and God bless the great state of Texas!