Elections, politics, students and YOU

By TEA Executive Director Terrance Gibson

Being an educator means we play an intricate role in democracy. Public schools are and have always been the cornerstone of advancing democracy, fostering equal opportunity and building a just society.


If I could wave a magic wand, we’d have a statehouse packed with pro-public education legislators. Every school board member, county commissioner and city councilperson would share TEA’s commitment to building strong public schools for every Tennessee child. But until I find that magic wand, we need to do our best to work with our elected leaders at all levels.


No matter who is in office, the time is always right to share your voice and expertise about what is best for students and schools.


As educators we see policy implementations, state laws and budget cuts play out in the day-to-day lives of our students. We see the students without enough to eat on the weekends. We see the kids writing English essays on their Notes app on their phones because of a lack of technology at home. We see our own family budgets stretched to make up for the limited supplies provided by state funding.


All of these things and so much more impact students’ education experience. All of these challenges are impacted by elected officials in varying ways. This motivates us as educators to amplify our voices and work with whoever is elected.


When you see election results, I want you to see opportunity. Whether it is an incumbent or a newly elected leader, it is our opportunity to extend a hand and share our expertise on what children need for academic success.


It is imperative that elected officials hear from educators early and often. Be that student we’ve all had who on day one cannot wait to tell you all of the details about all of the things.


No matter who sits on your school board or city council, and no matter who represents your legislative district—we must engage with them. Very few of these elected officials or policymakers will have any depth of knowledge around public education issues or have your level of expertise regarding teaching and leading schools.


It is up to YOU to educate and inform these individuals, no matter their political affiliations. We must hold them accountable to serving communities and doing what is best for students and public schools.


Politics, like education is not a spectator sport. No matter election outcomes, we as educators must continue to advocate for our profession and the students we serve. Our students and communities depend on it.