Wednesday, January 20, 2016

TEPSA Voting Series.2: What can a principal do?

This is an election cycle that could see real damage to public education! The power to build up our public schools for generations to come or to increase the chances that children will not have a 'free and public education' is in your hands as voters.
That’s my editorial as we discuss the importance of primary elections, tips for principals, and the ‘dos and don’ts’ encouraging those with whom you come in contact to vote. And, by vote, I mean vote in favor of public education.
If you missed my first article in the TEPSA Voting Series, you can find it at Scroll down and click on the blog button (it looks like this ). You can also go to
The Primaries
In most cases, electing candidates who support our children will be completed in the Primary Election. Because so few people vote in the primaries, every vote counts. Your vote will make a difference! Just look at this quote from SBOE, District 9 Member, Thomas Ratliff:
In my first race in 2010, there were over 116,000 votes cast. I won by a margin of 402 votes over 31 counties (just under 13 votes per county). Needless to say, every vote counts. Texas public education is too big and too smart to let their power and their voice go unheard. Find out about who supports public education and get out there and vote for them.
Be sure to put early voting for the primaries on your schedule: February 16-26, 2016!
Please review the candidates running for office in your area. A complete list of elections is available through Ballotpedia:
If you are not sure which Texas Senate and House district you reside within, please use this link to learn more.
Be sure and review the statewide offices that will make a difference for public education. It can be confusing in the primary election! For example, in the race for the Texas Supreme Court, Place 5, there are two Republicans running who have the same last name. Their stances regarding public education cannot be more different. Paul Green has been a moderating force on the court who has voted ‘friendly’ to public schools and to educators (think funding and TRS). Rick Green has run for the court before and hasn’t shown a propensity to support public education. While TEPSA does not endorse candidates, a bit of research will show you who to vote for when considering children and public education.
How do I know who to vote for?
Find out who your candidates are for the Texas House and Senate and the Texas Supreme Court then consider finding out how they answer some of these questions:
  • How do you support public education? (Not, “Do you support education?” Or even, “Do you support public education?”)
  • Do you support vouchers?
  • Do you support a tax credit plan? (that would decrease the amount of funds available to public schools)
  • Do you support giving private schools access to public funds (or money from tax credits) to private schools? They should say, “No!”
  • Do you support a defined benefit plan for all current and future TRS retirees?
  • Do you support providing reasonable, affordable, quality healthcare for TRS retirees and future?
  • What will you do as my legislator to ensure that the TRS pension fund and TRS–Care health insurance program are preserved and improved?
  • And, if you are feeling frisky, ask them where their own children attend school. Do they attend a public, private or home school? This question will tell you where their allegiance will lie.
If you have contacted your candidates already, and determined who your candidate of choice is, your work as a voter may not be done. Now is the time to begin educating your teachers. But, how do you do that without getting yourself in trouble? While you cannot use school time or resources to endorse a candidate of issue, you can help develop a climate of civic and patriotic voter participation. The next in our TEPSA Voting Series will deal with just that question and will give you some ‘dos and don’ts’ to keep yourself within legal and policy bounds.
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to call or email me: or 512.650.6286.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

TEPSA Voter Series: What can a principal do to promote voting?

The Texas Elementary Principal and Supervisors (TEPSA) is focused on the election season, and you should be too! As we approach the Texas primaries, TEPSA will be presenting a number of articles to help you as you encourage your teachers to vote for candidates that are good for kids and for education. At the same time, we want you to stay within the bounds of your school board policies and state law.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is publishing a series of articles about developing “Good Voter Health?” “Good Voter Health” is a term used to describe an active and informed member of the voting community. While there are several key factors in exercising your voter muscle, the first is that you always VOTE!  

Make no mistake: educators CAN have voter muscle. Recent surveys of our state’s teacher organizations found that 80% of their members are registered to vote and that 30% of them exercise their right to vote. While that might not seem like a lot, it is miles ahead of any other group.

The question becomes, why aren’t our votes making a difference? Could it be that we are not helping educate our members and their staffs which policies and politicians are good for kids? Do even our members know the same? For example, I recently this question to a group of politically active principals, “Do you know the difference between a defined benefit and a defined contribution?” Few of them knew that one gives you a steady income in retirement that will last your lifetime (defined benefit) and the other is a retirement check that fluctuates and is not guaranteed to last your lifetime. This benefit to educators is under attack and we need to vote for those candidates that will support our retirement.

Most races are decided in the primary elections, but few voters turn out for these spring races. TEPSA is here to tell its members that voting in the primary election is more than just important, it is vital!

Early voting for the primary elections begins on February 16, 2016 and continues through February 26, 2016. Primary election day is Tuesday, March 1. Election Day is a mere six weeks away!

Before you can vote in the primary elections, you must be registered to vote! Today, we encourage ALL TEPSA MEMBERS to answer this question for themselves: Am I registered to vote?

To confirm your voter registration status, please
visit this link provided by the Texas Secretary of State website. Please have your driver’s license handy when using this website. Use the ‘MVP’ area dropdown to enter your login information.

What if I need or want to change my name or address on my voter registration?

You can use the Secretary of State site to update your name or address on your voter registration record. TEPSA has received phone calls from members expressing concern about having a different name on their driver’s licenses than what appears on their voter registration cards. And, we know that many of our staff members experience marriages and/or divorces which cause name and address changes. If this issue concerns you, please address it NOW.
Use this link to make name and address changes.

Please note that this service will only work if you reside in the same county as is indicated on your current voter registration card. If you have moved to a new county and need to register to vote,
please click here.

I’m not registered! What do I do?

If you are not registered to vote,
register today. Please use the link to register as soon as possible. The deadline to register to vote in the upcoming primary election is February 1, 2016.

I have a question about my voter registration that hasn’t been answered by the Secretary of State website. Who can I contact?

If you are still experiencing difficulties with your voter registration, please contact your County Election Administrator.
A complete list of county election administrators and their contact information can be found at this link.

Where do I vote?

If you are already registered to vote, it is time to begin researching voting locations. Remember, if you are voting early, you do not have to vote in your precinct.

Consider the time you have available between February 16 and February 26, and determine if you can vote on one of those days instead of primary election day, March 1. Early registration might be something to consider for you and your teachers.

Registered and eligible voters may vote at ANY early voting location located within the county of residence. Check with your
Early Voting Clerk at the County Election Administrators office to determine locations within your county where early voting will take place. Many early voting sites are open on the weekends. Have a coffee meeting with your teachers and then go vote! Be sure and wear your ‘I voted’ sticker to work and explain the importance of voting to your kids!

Watch for our
“What Principals Can Do” list soon.
For questions email or call Mark Terry, Deputy Executive Director: or 512.650.6286