It’s election season in Texas, and one nonprofit organization is under fire for accusing public schools of electioneering for liberal candidates.
Empower Texans is a large political entity based in Austin that supports several Republican candidates in Texas, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The nonprofit faced a mixed reaction online after sending out a letter calling on school officials to whistleblow on school districts they believe are using funds to help students and employees vote and influencing students’ politics.
In response to the letter from Empower Texans, students, teachers and administrators have turned the call to action on its head by taking to social media to “blow the whistle” on educators doing positive things in classrooms. Despite the politically-charged origin of the hashtag, history sophomore Eleyna Kristine said “#blowthewhistle” is a positive reminder of what educators do.
“It’s optimistic,” Kristine said. “Every teacher’s hope is to positively influence their students and seeing students make this (the hashtag) into something positive is exciting.”
Ana Arreaga, a bilingual education sophomore, said she doesn’t think it’s wrong for teachers to share their ideas because they don’t use their influence to push political agendas.
“I’ve had teachers in both high school and college express their views and it never meant I had to agree with them,” Arreaga said. “I don’t think it really makes a difference if teachers reveal their political views because students do it all the time. If anything, there’s more influence amongst peers.”
Mathematics sophomore Valerie Barboza shared a similar idea and said teachers are influential in schools, but not when it comes to politics.
“I don’t see politics being involved in the classroom at all,” Barboza said. “From my limited time (teaching) in high schools, I haven’t seen much of that.”
Kristine said she thinks Empower Texans is misguided in targeting educators and that the media might be more responsible for influencing students’ political views.
“I’m not sure of their underlying fears but with the media being so prevalent in this day and age, change is going to happen whether they enforce restrictions or not,” Kristine said. “I’m getting my certification in social studies … part of social studies is teaching our civic duty, which is to vote.”
Online responses to the hashtag include stories of teachers who purchased classroom supplies out of their own money, supported students in extracurricular activities and worked extra unpaid hours to help
The positivity of the hashtag is one of the reasons Arreaga said she likes teaching.
“I’m a substitute teacher at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired,” Arreaga said. “I see just how much work and extra hours teachers put in with their students. It doesn’t matter if they have to come in early or stay in late; they’re always around. It’s inspiring.”
Both Kristine and Barboza said teachers deserve the appreciation they’re getting online.
“I know that in many opinions, including that of a future teacher, teachers aren’t really appreciated or compensated like they should be,” Kristine said. “So maybe they’re just trying (to) make it into something positive to make society recognize that teachers are still very valuable resources in society.”