"WHO IS REALLY CHOOSING OUR LEADERS?" by James M. Largent, Ed.D.
In my second article for Make Education a Priority month, I am going to discuss the importance of voting.
What would you say if our governor announced that he was going to poll 3% of the people in the state on major decisions, and whatever those 3% said, he was going to do? Those 3% would literally decide the future of Texas. My guess is that you would be incensed. What about the other 97% of us and our views? Aren’t we important? Don’t we deserve to be heard? Surely we can’t allow this to happen!
Regretfully, in the current state of politics in Texas, this is exactly what IS happening. Since no Democrat has won a statewide political race in over two decades, most statewide election decisions in Texas are truly made in the primaries. And, Texas has one of the worst voting records in the country when it comes to voter turnout. Remember that 3% figure I mentioned?
Let’s look at the race for lieutenant governor in 2014. In that race, 1.3 million people voted in the Republican primary, and Dan Patrick got just over 552,000 votes. That put him into a runoff election against David Dewhurst. In the runoff, only 750,000 people voted and Patrick won with 489,000 votes. In 2014, there were over 15.5 million eligible voters in Texas and over 14 million registered voters. So, by doing the simple math, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was elected with just over 3% of eligible Texas voters casting their vote for him, and 97% of the citizens of Texas either voted for someone else or did not vote.
Unfortunately, this scenario plays out in every election cycle, with extremely low voter turnout and with people left scratching their heads after the election asking, “How in the world did this person get elected?” Even in our current Presidential race, many citizens are asking, “Are these really the best two candidates in the United States?”
One of the things I constantly remind our staff at GISD about is the importance of voting. We need to be informed voters, not just falling in line with candidates who spend the most money or who just repeat a few national “hot topic” issues that we agree with. We must do a little research, ask questions, and find out where candidates truly stand on issues that are important to us.
There are over 700,000 school employees in Texas, and, if we all voted, we could easily elect candidates who place public education and our 5.2 million students at the top of their list of priorities. Instead, we continue to see candidates elected who publicly announce that they are pushing “major reforms” in public education, which usually means they want to divert tax dollars to private schools, add more useless bubble tests, or find more hoops for us to jump through in the name of holding us “accountable.” The problem is, none of these ideas prove to be anything new, never involve the expertise of professional educators, most lack any proven research, and almost none would actually help children. We allow people who have never walked a day in our shoes to trash us in public and tell us how we should do our jobs. Unbelievably, we still don’t show up on Election-Day, and, by not showing up, we allow this cycle to continue. By not voting, we are electing people who literally want to do away with public education as we know it.
My call is for all citizens across our great state to exercise our duty to VOTE. Do not continue to allow 3% of Texans to determine the future of our state. If you don’t think it matters or your vote doesn’t count, just remember that we have 5.2 million children who are counting on us to vote on their behalf.
Dr. Jim Largent is the Superintendent of Granbury ISD. If you have topics you would like for him to address in future columns, he can be reached at email@example.com