Support for public education, teachers, and all education employees was strong in elections across Texas and the nation on Tuesday. School bonds and candidates for school board backed by Texas AFT local affiliates prevailed in key school-district elections from Houston to El Paso. Defenders of public education also won big victories in national bellwether elections from coast to coast.
Here in Texas, major school bonds were approved by voters in Austin ISD and Socorro ISD (El Paso area) thanks in large part to the efforts of our local union members. In Houston ISD, candidates backed by our local affiliates and allies swept to outright victories in three of four key trustee races, and the union-supported candidate leads heading into a runoff in the fourth race. In nearby Cypress-Fairbanks ISD the story was similar, with outright wins for candidates backed by Cy-Fair AFT.
Meanwhile, in the nationally noted marquee race of the day, for the Virginia governorship, public education was a defining issue. Ed Gillespie, described by AFT President Randi Weingarten as “a clone” of Donald Trump’s pro-privatization Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, pushed hard for private-school vouchers and for increased funding for privately run charter schools. The AFT-backed candidate, Ralph Northam, took the opposite stance, arguing against vouchers and for increased funding for traditional public schools. Northam also took a skeptical view of standardized testing as currently misused in American education. Northam won handily, chalking up the biggest margin of victory in 32 years in a Virginia governor’s race.
The positive outcome of this contest, as of so many other races and issues on the ballot November 7, is sure to resonate in the halls of Congress and state capitols all over the nation. Many election watchers see it as a harbinger of what’s to come in the 2018 mid-term elections.
(Those elections are coming up sooner than you might think. Candidates can start signing up for a place on the 2018 Democratic or Republican primary ballot in Texas on November 11. The deadline for filing is December 11. Primary election day will be March 6, with early voting in person beginning already on February 20.)