Skip To Content

Supporting Public Schools

The TASB Talks podcast. From left, former Texas Lone Star managing editor Roger White, TASA Executive Director Kevin Brown, and former TASB Executive Director James B. Crow.

As important as public schools are to the students and families they serve, they also play an enormous role in the Texas communities where they are located. Just as each Texas town is unique, so is the local district and what it means to its residents.

In many places, especially rural areas, the local school district doesn’t just educate students; it also serves as the largest employer, the community gathering spot, and as a vital point of connection for generations of families linked by a common experience. Yet, even with those meaningful advantages, TASB has long understood that it can’t take support for public schools for granted, especially amid changing demographics, political divisions, and a shifting educational landscape in Texas.

“We’re a big state with a daily influx of new residents who need information about public schools and what the function of the school board is here,” said TASB Deputy Executive Director Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield. “Add to that a very complicated school funding system that needs explanation and a steady stream of misinformation about public schools, and we have a big task to keep the facts and good news flowing.”

That work has been central to the TASB mission for the past 75 years, with the goal of keeping the success of the state’s public schools top of mind for lawmakers, the general public, and of course, parents who have many educational choices, including public charter schools, private schools, religious schools, and home schools. More recently, lawmakers have been debating adding education savings accounts or vouchers to that list of options, which would use public tax dollars to help subsidize those private options.

“From the very beginning, a top TASB priority has been to shine a positive light on all the great things happening in Texas public schools,” said TASB Executive Director Dan Troxell. “It’s an even bigger priority today because we want public schools to continue to stand out as the best choice for families.”

Over the years, the work TASB has done to encourage support of public schools has been multifaceted — and relentless.

“TASB’s approach to building support constantly evolved,” said Karen Strong, who led the TASB communications and marketing division from 1988 to 2020. “Campaigns had to morph, and messages had to be refreshed to remain pertinent. As the environment around public schools changed, we had to renew our efforts continually. It’s been a wild ride but an important one.”

Not surprisingly, the biggest challenges have tended to coincide with specific issues that have come before the Legislature, namely school funding, testing and accountability proposals, and of course, voucher and privatization schemes.

 “It seems like the voices against public education are growing louder and expanding to a degree,” said Bret Begert, a Fort Elliott CISD trustee who served on the TASB Board of Directors from 2005 to 2017, including as TASB president in 2015-16.

Amid the false narrative being pushed by some special interest groups that Texas public schools are failing, Begert said TASB has helped show otherwise by sharing the real success stories on the power of public education to transform lives and bring communities together. Those efforts have included marketing campaigns, special events, contests, giveaways, recognition programs, and resources like brochures, publications, websites, and podcasts.

 “The future is bright because when you get past all the negative rhetoric, the facts will prevail,” Begert said. “And the fact is public education in Texas is strong, and it’s supported, and we’re turning out educated students to make good citizens in the real world. And as long as we keep doing that and stay on track, I think the best days of Texas public education are ahead of us.”

Just as in past years, TASB’s efforts to showcase public education will continue to support the following goals:

To share success stories of public schools

Parents of public school students have consistently given their schools high marks over the years. Even so, because there is increasing competition from nonpublic schools with large advertising budgets, the successes of public schools need to be shared. Other members of the community, including new residents and residents without children in the system, are not as aware of the good things going on in public schools and need reminders.

To clarify facts and correct misinformation

Unfortunately, misinformation has increased over the years about the success rate of Texas public school students, the success rate of nonpublic schools, how schools are funded, and whether options like vouchers are good for the state. TASB’s focus has been to stick to the facts and share them widely.

To explain public school funding

Public school funding has consistently remained a lower priority in the Texas Legislature. Also, many Texans don’t know exactly how schools are funded and how legislative changes impact their schools. So, diligence in clarifying what’s going on at the Capitol is important.

To increase Texans’ support for public schools

Explaining legislative activity is just the beginning of increasing awareness about public schools. TASB has also found ways to make it easier for the average person to contact and/or meet with legislators, to help them voice their opinions through letters to legislators, and to train them how to be better advocates.

To explain what school boards do

Many Texans do not know what the responsibilities of the school board include. Defining the role of the school board and the duties of its members has been an important function at TASB.

To help school districts market their schools

In competition with nonpublic schools, public school districts need to market their schools and give parents solid information about the advantages of public education. With so much misinformation out there, it’s important for schools to be ready to share statistics and success stories of schools in their area. TASB has provided training and resources to help with this effort.

To recognize active supporters of public schools

To highlight the good work going on in public schools and encourage support from communities, TASB has created a variety of commendation and recognition programs over the years.

To collaborate with other groups in building support

Building relationships with other organizations that actively support public education has been a top priority at TASB. Whether it’s by having regular discussions, sharing materials, or co-sponsoring a major event together, the work TASB does with other groups is essential to helping spread positive news about public schools.

An Ever-Evolving Effort

In TASB’s early years, disseminating information about public schools was limited to newspaper articles, mailed correspondence, and small forums. As new communication technologies popped up, the Association was at the forefront of adopting them. Whether the latest thing was videodisc technology, the powerful new world wide web, or virtual events, TASB quickly became adept at it so there was no pause in communications about public schools. It will be this way in the future — because for TASB, public school support is its reason for being.

Photo: The TASB Talks podcast was created in 2017 to share news about public schools in Texas. In 2018, the podcast was presented live at txEDCON in Austin. From left, former Texas Lone Star managing editor Roger White, TASA Executive Director Kevin Brown, and former TASB Executive Director James B. Crow.

Was this article helpful?
Melissa Locke Roberts

Melissa Locke Roberts is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star.

Sylvia Wood
Communications Division Director

Sylvia Wood is the division director of communications for TASB.