The following was included in TCTA's 2017-18 Survival Guide, the ultimate reference tool for Texas educators, and is current as of September 2017 but is subject to change.

After the 2017 legislative session ended, teachers and other public education advocates began to unite actively in support of public schools and school employees. As noted above, the rallies and phone calls had immediate and tangible results — Gov. Greg Abbott added issues relating to teacher benefits, including help for TRS-Care, to the summer special session agenda, and legislators approved an additional $212 million for the retiree insurance program.

Public school supporters still have work to do, though, as public school funding and salaries fall behind, TRS-Care still needs a long-term solution, and active employees are being priced out of their health insurance. Some legislators continue to push for diversions of public funds to private and home schools, and work to quiet teacher voices by making it less convenient for teachers to pay dues to their professional associations.

While TCTA and other education supporters work hard to defend public schools and get teacher-friendly provisions passed, your TCTA lobbyists can only work with what we are given. Electing more education- and teacher-friendly lawmakers, and protecting the ones already elected, is the best way teachers can support their own profession.

This fall, teachers should be actively involved in helping to recruit candidates for legislative offices and finding worthy candidates to support. The filing period runs from Nov. 11 to Dec. 11, 2017, for races in 2018.

Campaign season

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 of the actions listed in the “what’s next” section.

The basics

Know your election dates. The primary elections are March 6, 2018, with early voting from Feb. 20-March 2. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, and early voting runs Oct. 22-Nov. 2. 

Identify the candidates. Go to TexasTeachersVote.org for information on the candidates in your legislative 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. 

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.

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 includes information on planning a candidate forum that can 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 single-use 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 yourself 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 times to make contact with your state senators and representatives are before their peak busy times — legislative sessions and campaign season. 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.

How to contact your legislators

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
512-463-0001
Web-based email form: www.ltgov.state.tx.us/contact.php

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