By Dr. Libby Cohen
Director of Advocacy and Outreach

Over the past several weeks, something exciting has been afoot in communities across Texas. In Cajun restaurants, libraries, and large auditoriums across the state, those who have attended the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation’s For the Future candidate forums and town halls have taken a break from today’s polarized, shouting-match style of politics. Instead, they have been engaging in thoughtful, civil conversations about our state’s greatest task: educating our children. 

These candidate forums and town halls reflected the belief that creating a world-class education system is a priority, not only in communities across Texas but also in our state capitol. In the midst of the everyday hustle and bustle, it can be hard to find the time and space to learn about issues, let alone how legislators and potential legislators might approach them. For the Future events aimed to create learning opportunities for communities and candidates by posing questions on various key issues in public education, including the challenges of providing sustainable school funding, defining the role and scope of standardized testing, and creating a robust teaching pipeline.

Here’s a snapshot of the breadth of these events:

  • 42 events coordinated, from Lubbock to Lake Jackson, from Del Rio to Dallas
  • 105 candidates participated, representing both parties
  • 3,194 community members attended
  • 20,139 livestream video views

Throughout these events, we’ve been impressed by the thoughtfulness of candidate responses as well as community questions. Perhaps most refreshingly, as we delve deeper into the substance of real issues, party-line responses tend to melt away as candidates genuinely grapple with the challenges and opportunities within our public school systems.

The founders of both the United States and Texas recognized that strong public schools were essential to the preservation of liberty and democracy, because, as Founding Father Thomas Jefferson put it, they taught ‘every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom.’ At the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation, we believe this sort of education on matters of the public trust must continue into adulthood — and provide the basis for people to be informed participants in the decision-making structures that shape their lives.

In addition to the videos of each event, more candidate and polling information is available through https://votetxed.org/. We also plan to continue cultivating the relationships we established at these events up to and through the legislative session.

While much progress has been made these past few weeks, this work is only just beginning. We must continue these conversations with each other as well as our elected officials to ensure every legislative session is a public education session.