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An open letter to our state legislators:

In his first State of the Union address in 1981, President Reagan quoted George Washington to remind us, “The destiny of self-government and the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty is finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” Public schools were established for the education of the masses and the advancement of democratic principles and continue to play a significant role in preserving the sacred fire of liberty. You see, public schools do not merely serve the public; we produce the public. It is in our classrooms where passionate hard-working teachers champion the cause for kids and weave the fibers of fabric of our democracy.

In a speech to the Public Education Association delivered in 1900, Mark Twain stated, “We believe that out of our public schools grows the greatness of a nation,” and those words ring true today. Public schools enroll every child within our attendance zones and we are proud to work alongside passionate staff who have a clear understanding that education holds a promise for a brighter tomorrow. Teachers in our public schools take pride in creating the experiences that change the trajectory of students’ lives, equip them with transferable skills to compete in a global market, and ensure our students graduate future-ready, life-long learners. It is in our public schools where we identify the potential in every child and where students from all backgrounds have a fighting chance to get ahead.

Adam M. Grant, an American author Of Hidden Potential; The Science of Achieving Greater Things, and professor at the WhartonSchool of the University of Pennsylvania, states that good (public school) systems provide the opportunity for people to travel great distances. Public schools open doors for people that do not grow up with (financial) means. Public schools offer windows for those who are turned away at the door and shatter glass ceilings for those who, all too often, are offered an opportunity to break through.

Instead of diverting funds away from public schools, we should be working to properly fund them and double down on our efforts to unlock the hidden potential in populations so that in the words of Adam Grant, “reduce the risk of missing out on the next (genius, statesman or inventor).”

Legislation forged in our state Capitol in 2023 will have a lasting effect on public education and I urge you, as our representatives for public education, to oppose any state plan that would use vouchers, tax credits and taxpayer saving grants, tuition reimbursements or any other means to divert public tax dollars to private entities. Our public schools are the engine for democracy — we must continue to emphasize the need for local control and well-funded public schools. Seldom have the stakes been higher for public education in Texas and for the future of our state.

It is a privilege to serve alongside the many passionate educators in the Rio Grande Valley and across Texas. I pray the Lord will continue to be a light unto our path, and give us the wisdom and discernment to sustain environments in which all children flourish.

Dr. Gonzalo Salazar is superintendent of schools for the Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District.

Gonzalo Salazar