The following was included in TCTA's 2018-19 Survival Guide, the ultimate reference tool for Texas educators, and is current as of September 2018 but is subject to change.

There’s more to teaching than what you do in the classroom. You’re subject to state laws, such as those described in this guide, and you benefit from state funding. So not only should you keep up with state issues, it’s in your best interest to take an active role in influencing them. With continuing attacks on teacher rights and benefits, it is more important than ever to become politically active.

The best way to make the teaching profession more effective, attractive and professional is to partner with TCTA in maintaining relationships with your state lawmakers. Helping the “good guys” get elected, keeping them in office, and making sure they know what teachers are thinking are all crucial aspects to ensuring you have the tools you need to give your students the best possible education.

This fall, teachers have a great opportunity to get involved by participating in state legislative elections. After November, it will be important to develop and maintain relationships with your elected lawmakers.

Campaign season

Campaign season is in full swing during the fall. If you’re aware of a candidate you would like to support, getting involved early is a great way to become known and establish the groundwork for a long-term working relationship. Cover all of “the basics” outlined below; if you would like to help a particular candidate get elected, take at least three actions in the “what’s next” section.

The basics

Know your election dates. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, and early voting runs Oct. 22-Nov. 2. The last day to register to vote for the general election is Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Identify the candidates. Go to TCTA’s TexasTeachersVote.org website for information on the candidates in your districts.

Check candidates’ voting records and/or education issue positions. Look at the “Issues” page of the candidates’ websites and attend debates and town hall meetings to learn about their goals for public schools and teachers. Pay careful attention to the language they use. “School choice” means vouchers, “local control” or “deregulation” may mean a loss of teacher legal protections, and “payroll protection” means the end of your ability to pay for association dues via payroll deduction.

What’s next?

Now that you’ve determined there is a teacher-friendly candidate you would like to support, here’s how you can help:

Contact the candidate to offer your assistance with the campaign. TCTA does not endorse candidates, so you will need to offer assistance as an individual, not as a TCTA representative.

Spread the word. Tell your friends and family, colleagues, church acquaintances and others about the candidate and urge them to vote. Inform them of the candidate’s pro-education positions, and direct them to his/her campaign website. Join a postcard-writing campaign or man a phone bank for the candidate.

Get local teachers excited and involved. Talk to your colleagues about how they can help the candidate’s campaign. Plan to carpool to your voting location and then proudly wear your
“I VOTED!” sticker.

Hold a candidate forum. TexasTeachersVote.org has information on planning a candidate forum to help you get started.

Check to see if the candidate has requested a contribution and/or mailing labels from ACT For TCTA (TCTA’s political action committee). TCTA does not endorse candidates, so campaign contributions and mailing labels are ways we can provide support for pro-education candidates.

Take advantage of early voting. Teachers (and other busy people) often find it very difficult to get to polling places on Election Day. Early voting provides an easy opportunity to vote at a convenient time.

Make a financial contribution — even a small one. As little as $25 can help pay for yard signs, bumper stickers, phone calls and other tools that allow a candidate to carry on a conversation with voters. For example, a $25 donation will cover at least two yard signs, and just a few signs on a single street can have a positive impact. Or it can pay for an hour’s worth of time from a couple of block-walkers. Consider becoming a fundraiser by convincing a few friends or colleagues to match your own contribution. Suddenly, your $25 can become $100 or $200, and make a big difference in any campaign.

Contacting your legislators

The best time to make contact with your state senators and representatives is before the start of the legislative session. Whether you write, call or visit in person, it’s always best to start with a thank you, identify yourself as a constituent, tell a little about yourself, then get to the point of the communication.

Map out the issues you’d like to cover and do your homework. Legislators expect you to be an expert on classroom issues, not state law, but having some familiarity with the basics is a must. Always be professional; try to relate all issues, including those concerning teacher pay and benefits, back to your students; and be concise. If you’ve scheduled a face-to-face visit, follow up with a thank-you note.

TCTA avoids providing form letters for our members — research and experience tell us that policymakers routinely ignore such communications. Individual communications relating personal experiences are the best way to get a point across. TCTA provides you with the background information you need to get started, and we’re happy to answer any specific questions you may have before you make those legislative contacts.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Gov. Greg Abbott
The Honorable Greg Abbott
Office of the Governor
PO Box 12428, Austin, TX 78711
Information and Referral Hotline: 800-843-5789
Web-based email form: www.gov.texas.gov/contact

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
The Honorable Dan Patrick
Lt. Governor’s Office
PO Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711
Phone: 512-463-0001
Web-based email form: www.ltgov.state.tx.us/contact/

All state senators
The Honorable (Full Name)
Texas Senate
PO Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711-2068
Web-based email form at senate.texas.gov (on senator’s page)

All state representatives
The Honorable (Full Name)
Texas House of Representatives
PO Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768-2910
Web-based email form at house.texas.gov (on representative’s page)