The following message was sent from Texas AFT President Zeph Capo to members statewide on Wednesday, Nov. 9.
Reflecting on This Election
Yesterday’s election could have gone better for public education. But it also could have gone a lot worse.
Do I wish we’d woken up this morning with a new governor, a new lieutenant governor, a pro-public education Legislature, and a State Board of Education allied with actual educators? More than anything.
But the sad truth is that some people have to feel before they can learn. The questions I have now are many:
- How many Texas families will have to feel the loss of a loved one before we learn the wisdom of commonsense gun control?
- How many will have to feel the agony of disease that could have been prevented by the expansion of affordable health care?
- How many of our kids will have to endure a toothache while taking a high-stakes test because adults continue to elect leaders who want to turn supportive community schools with wraparound services into some sort of communist bogeyman?
This is the state of our state. But I woke up this morning with hope anyway.
Nationally, in an election in which democracy, freedom, public education, public safety, and economic security were on the ballot, voters overwhelmingly rejected extremist fear-mongering. As my union sister and AFT President Randi Weingarten said this morning, results across the country show a deep love for our public schools and a commitment to investing in them.
In Texas, our slate of endorsed statewide candidates put up a heck of a fight but came up short. While I’m disappointed, I’m happy to report plenty of bright spots for public education in Texas and for our union’s work.
Historic School Board Victories
Education Austin and its members spent weekend after weekend block walking and so many nights phone banking for their endorsed candidates for the Austin ISD school board — and it paid off. All five of Education Austin’s endorsed candidates won, and the board now includes five former teachers and three former union members. Not to mention, the district passed three bond measures with their support.
Just north of Austin, Education Round Rock members held off challenges from an extremist slate trying to take over their school board and worked successfully to get all five of their endorsements elected.
Protecting Public Education Allies
While our union’s endorsed candidates didn’t win every race, we were able to hold on to real allies for educators, school employees, and public schools in both the Texas House and Senate.
I want to congratulate Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who won re-election in Senate District 19 despite abominable attacks from Gov. Abbott. I also want to take a moment to thank him for his tireless work with the Uvalde community and statewide, pushing for real action on gun violence and school safety.
Likewise, I welcome Rep. Terry Meza and Rep. Erin Zwiener back to the Texas House, where I look forward to their continued support for fully funding our schools to meet our students’ needs and making teaching in Texas a profession worth pursuing.
We will send Rep. Vicente Gonzalez back to Congress to continue representing District 34 in the Rio Grande Valley, and for that I am grateful. Every educator ally we keep in Congress is another step closer to meaningful reforms like repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision and further reducing the burden of student debt.
And as a former Houston educator myself, I’d be remiss not to mention how happy I am that the Harris County Commissioners Court will be controlled by labor allies and Lina Hidalgo, who has worked so tirelessly to keep our schools safe during COVID-19, will return as county judge.
Judge Hidalgo survived an unprecedented onslaught of corporate money pushed by state leaders who didn’t like her challenge to their power. Her victory shows the underdog can win the fight when you stand up and speak truth to power.
Electing Legislators Who Respect Educators
We also have some new faces to celebrate as they join the Texas Legislature in January.
Brownsville Educators Stand Together (BEST AFT) did a tremendous amount of work, along with many other members in the Rio Grande Valley, to elect Morgan LaMantia to the Texas Senate. She replaces a senator in SD 27 who was vehemently pro-charter school expansion, and we are glad to have a new ally in that fight.
In a moment of true pride as a Texan, I congratulate Salman Bhojani (HD 92) and Dr. Suleman Lalani (HD 76) for becoming the first Muslim-American legislators to join the the Texas Legislature. Their voices are needed, and I am so proud of the amount of work AFT members did to support their election.
Finally, I send my congratulations and warmest wishes to Janie Lopez, who was elected last night to represent HD 37 in the Rio Grande Valley. She is a former AFT member, teacher, and school counselor, and she cares deeply about our public schools. On those issues, I am confident we will be able to work together in the best interest of our kids and our educators.
Most Importantly, AFT Showed Up
We may not know yet who controls the U.S. Congress, and we may yet have to endure continued division and bickering at the local, state and national levels.
But what I do know is this: Our members showed up.
- While we’re still waiting on Election Day results, we know at least 41% of Texas AFT members voted early in this election — that’s double the rest of the early vote turnout in Texas!
- In this election cycle, Texas AFT members sent 221,000 texts to fellow school employees and Texas voters.
- You made 17,000 phone calls to remind them to vote too.
We may not have won everything we wanted in this election, but that work means something. Texas and its public schools are better off for it. I’m honored to be a part of this union — and this movement — with you.
Join us Nov. 16 for a Texas AFT membership call
Our work is far from over, and now our attention must turn to the next legislative session, which starts in January. We have to send a message to legislators new and old: if you don’t respect us, you can expect us.
Join me and your Texas AFT team on Wednesday, Nov. 16, to talk about what this election means for the legislative session and what we’re fighting for.
Texas AFT president