Education is the civil rights issue of our time. Not since the days of Brown v. Board of Education has our educational system been so politicized both in our state and across our nation. 

We need to ensure that the politicization of our educational system does not hinder students in our region and that our students receive every educational opportunity we can provide. 

The Texas State Board of Education, District Two, needs a representative with real experience and extensive knowledge to enter the arena and advocate for the nearly 1.8 million students enrolled in our District Two educational institutions.

My name is Michael Vargas, and I was born and raised in one of the poorest pockets of San Benito, Cameron County, Texas. However, I was fortunate enough to have amazing teachers and mentors to help and guide me through my early education. The guidance of these teachers and mentors along with my innate drive for success and capacity for hard work enabled me to earn a full scholarship tuition to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. I became the first member of my family to attend college and graduate. During my time at Brown, I quickly learned the importance of providing equal educational opportunities to all students. It is appalling that for far too long, a student’s zip code and place of birth determine what opportunities they have and, ultimately, their future. This needs to change. We need to ensure that all students have access to the support they need to achieve their dreams. We also need to ensure that our teachers and schools have the resources necessary to help our students and our region. 

When I graduated as Salutatorian from San Benito High School, I left the area for almost ten years – four years at Brown – and six years teaching and as a Corps Member with the Teach For America (TFA) program in St. Louis, Missouri. No one in Texas may be familiar with the Wellston School District or the Hazelwood School District, but teaching and working in these institutions is what informed me on the state of education in this country. In my six years in Missouri, I served as a teacher, an instructional coach, and a grants administrator. My experiences during this time ignited my passion for social justice, and my personal mission of advancing educational equality became a life endeavor. The knowledge and understanding I gained in these educational systems outside of Texas make me uniquely able to tackle educational issues here at home in the Lone Star State. I can bring classroom experience, innovative ideas, and a working knowledge of alternatives to the educational institutions in District Two.  

It was always my intention to return to South Texas and to serve the community that gave me the tools and experience I needed to succeed. In 2015, I ran for office and was successfully elected as a School Board Member of the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District. I served the district for five and a half years, and it gave me a great sense of pride to serve my community. I was also elected to serve in two state-wide roles, as a member of the Legislative Advisory Council (LAC) with the Texas Association of School Boards Board of Directors as well as an Executive Committee Member with the Mexican American School Boards Association. Being elected to serve in these capacities helped me to leverage my current experience and continue my mission of promoting educational equality in South Texas.

Taking on the polarized debate in Austin for the 1.8 million students in District Two will require someone with actual knowledge of state-wide issues, hands-on classroom experience, and familiarity with the operations and needs of local teachers and school boards. I am an experienced professional who has served in state-wide roles and dedicated myself to advocating for our students and working tirelessly to find solutions for their issues. A nuanced understanding of policy and issues that pragmatically impact students cannot be learned over night. This knowledge can only be acquired by doing the work and serving in roles that make a difference to the students of Texas and their families.

I applaud the other candidates for throwing their names into the hat, and I look forward to a spirited debate about how to best advance the causes, issues, and sentiments of the 1.8 million students of District Two.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Michael Vargas, candidate for Texas State Board of Education, District 2. The column is part of our Meet the Candidate series. Vargas can be reached by email via: [email protected]

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