Op-Ed: How four candidates are changing the narrative on education in the San Antonio ISD Trustees Election

by | Apr 20, 2021 | Opinion, San Antonio

Students should always be at the forefront of education policy. A group of candidates running on a shared platform for the San Antonio ISD Board of Trustees are putting action behind those words.

Sarah Sorenson, Judit Vega, Luke Amphlett, and Yasmín Parra Codina all stepped up to run against incumbent trustees because they believe that San Antonio ISD students deserve better. Their shared platform, titled the Schools our Students Deserve, promotes a bold vision for a school system where student voices are heard and families are prioritized.

The public school experience across the state of Texas is filled with far too many stories of underinvestment in students, and reforms have largely failed to improve the system. Significant improvement of our education system necessitates a holistic approach that addresses all aspects of the educational experience including classroom spaces, the rights of students and their families, and social justice.

The Schools our Students Deserve platform is not just another list of campaign promises: it is an opportunity to fundamentally overhaul the role of education in San Antonio ISD students’ lives. The platform calls for protection and expansion of the rights of San Antonio ISD families via a Parent & Guardian Bill of Rights. By centering students and families in all decisions made about education, these candidates want to create a school district that works for the people who are impacted directly instead of the special interests that fund the current school board.

Each one of the four individuals challenging incumbents in San Antonio ISD has been fighting to protect the rights of students and to better their educational experience. Now that same energy and strong sense of initiative has brought itself into the world of politics. School board races are deeply important for educational policy and protecting students, but sadly, these races often do not get the attention that they deserve.

It is essential that we run progressives and community activists in every single seat of every single school district in Texas. Not only does running candidates who are fierce advocates for students give us the opportunity to elect better representatives, it also starts much needed dialogues about our education system. By challenging incumbent school board representatives, you are not just challenging the incumbent. You are challenging all of the preconceived notions of what our education system should look like and you are challenging the special interests that hold so much influence on school boards across the state.

When I think of a school board representative, the thing that comes to mind is a parent, a community activist, or a teacher, not career politicians who take large contributions from special interest groups. The incumbents in San Antonio ISD recite talking points of a massive improvement in the educational quality of the district, but they ignore the stories of students, parents, and teachers who are saying that the actual educational experience is still flawed. The current Board of Trustees hides behind data and standardized testing failing to understand the importance of in class experience.

The Schools our Students Deserve platform was built by a strong coalition of students, teachers, parents, and community activists. The platform is built upon the idea that standardized testing and performance metrics are not necessarily measures of educational quality, but instead are statistics used to distract from inherent flaws in the educational system. Education is inexplicably linked to students’ lived experience inside and outside the classroom.

But the advocacy of school board representatives should not stop at deciding school policies; school board representatives should also be fierce advocates for students at all levels of government. Advocating for progressive policy like expanding access to housing, protecting the environment, and addressing food insecurity may not seem like something relevant to the school board, but there is no denying the direct impact these issues have on a student’s ability to learn. In order to meaningfully improve educational quality, our representatives must be actively advocating for all types of policy, educational and non-educational, that can benefit students.

The four candidates challenging incumbents on the San Antonio ISD Board of Trustees are writing the playbook for what all of our school board races should look like; they are advocating for change in a way that includes students, parents and workers. Electing Sarah Sorenson, Judit Vega, Luke Amphlett, and Yasmín Parra Codina to the San Antonio ISD Board of Trustees would majorly benefit the school district’s educational experience and would also provide inspiration to activists across the state to make that same change in their own school district.

Early voting is happening April 19th-April 27th and election day is on May 1st. I will be supporting the Schools our Students Deserve platform because it is time to invest directly into our students and families instead of just boasting hollow statistics. 

Zane Smith is a sophomore at St. Mary’s University and is the director of TX Youth PAC, an organization dedicated to uplifting young voices in Texas government.

Photo: 25or6to4 / Wikimedia Commons

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