ATPE Lobbyist Andrea Chevalier and Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) co-wrote “Teachers in a New Political Landscape,” now published in Texas Education Review, a peer-reviewed journal from the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Click here
to read the article.
“I was asked to contribute to this special issue of the Texas Education Review because of my involvement in the College of Education at UT-Austin as a Ph.D. student and my work as a lobbyist with ATPE,” Chevalier explains. “The editor wanted to compile several written pieces covering different aspects of the 86th legislative session. Since I formerly worked for Rep. Mary Gonzalez, who recently accomplished a doctoral degree herself and has extensive experience with education in the Texas legislature, writing together was a natural fit.”
The article focuses on how educators’ position within the political landscape has evolved rapidly over recent election cycles, the policy impacts of this evolution, and how important it is to understand other interrelated factors at play.
“Teachers are in a very unique profession within the public sphere that is almost entirely dictated by other people, many of whom have never experienced what it is like to be a teacher,” Chevalier says. “Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult and rare for educators to run for and win a legislative seat.”
It is expensive to run for office in Texas, where there are no limits on campaign contributions, and it is not unheard of for candidates in a legislative race to spend a million dollars or more to try to win. That, plus the meager salary that legislators earn in their official capacity, limits the option of running for a legislative seat to those who are independently wealthy or have highly flexible careers. Also, the Texas constitution prohibits educators from serving in the State Legislature while they are actively working as public school teachers.
“All of these factors lead to teachers being underrepresented in the Legislature,” explains Chevalier.
Fortunately, there are still many other ways educators can influence elections and participate in the process of shaping education policy and laws. As a former teacher herself, Chevalier brings her classroom experience to work every day as an ATPE lobbyist.
“When I was a teacher, I used to think, ‘If legislators would just convene teachers and let us decide what the laws should be, we could fix education,’” she says. “Now, I tell teachers, ‘Nobody is going to ask you for your opinion. You have to offer it.’ Teachers have to become politically involved because EVERY aspect of their profession depends on it, which means every aspect of their students’ success depends on it.”
“Mary and I wrote this article not only for academic purposes but also to highlight that teachers cannot become placated by the apparent successes of the 86th Legislature. If we don’t speak out and share a collective voice as a body of educators, nobody will hear us.”
For more details on ATPE’s support for Texas educators at the Legislature, see our advocacy blog at TeachTheVote.org
. For real-time updates from our lobby team, follow @TeachTheVote