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Bailes honored for commitment to public schools

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    State Rep. Ernest Bailes is presented with thePublic Education Champion Award from Raise Your Hand Texas.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Raise Your Hand Texas and local school superintendents with State Rep. Ernest Bailes at a ceremony on Tuesday morning.

DAYTON – Educators and community leaders filed into Richter Elementary to recognize the work and dedication of State Rep. Ernest Bailes in the fight to protect public schools at a special event Tuesday morning. 

A packed house was on hand as Raise Your Hand Texas, a non-partisan nonprofit that advocates for public education honored Bailes with the inaugural Public Education Champion Award. Bailes is one of 100 Texas House and Senate legislators representing rural and urban districts. 

“When legislators are willing to go above and beyond for their public schools and the students and teachers in their local community, they need to be recognized for their efforts,” said Dr. Michelle Smith, executive director at Raise Your Hand Texas. “Our Public Education Champion Award honors that steadfast commitment to the legislators’ local community when making decisions at our Texas Capitol.” 

The organization recognized award recipients after reviewing their voting and legislative efforts during the 88th Texas Legislature. 
Dayton ISD Superintendent Dr. Jessica Johnson welcomed attendees and spoke about Bailes and his strong ties to public education 

“He is so pro-public education. Not only is his wife a schoolteacher but he’s got so many other family members that are part of our public education system,” said Johnson. 

Bailes later elaborated on those ties, including classroom teachers, administrators, coaches, and school trustees, in a long line of family working in public schools. 

“Public education is a lot of who I am and why I got to this point,” said Bailes. 

Bailes lauded the educators in attendance and their work and daily commitment to working with school children to provide the best education possible.  

“Never let the state get in the way of your love for the kids. ,” said Bailes. 

In his fourth term, Bailes is also focused on the commitment to children that don’t have perfect home lives and the necessity for the education system to thrive in support of those students. 

“I’m worried about the kids who don’t have a parent. Who live in a broken household. You can see it in their eyes and know when they need a little extra love,” said Bailes. 

Bailes believes that public schools feel a void in many students' lives and offer a stable environment and sense of community, even offering some of the only adult support the children will receive in their lives. 

Liberty ISD Superintendent Dusty McGee also delivered remarks praising Bailes while making a case for the distinct differences in rural school districts, like those in Liberty County, versus larger communities in more urban areas. 

“Right now, public schools almost feel like they are in the middle of a nasty custody battle,” said McGee. 

He spoke on how schools play a role in politics used to cause division on both sides of the political aisle.  

“What both sides have to realize is that small suburban and rural schools can’t be lumped in with giant mega districts,” said McGee. 

“We have to have somebody in Austin who advocates for us and who understands that, and the reason we are here today is because we never have to worry if Ernest is going to do that for us,” said McGee. 

During remarks, Bailes pointed out differences of opinion on specific aspects of education between fellow Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, especially concerning vouchers. 

“We have a governor who is all in on that, and he is not a big fan of mine right now,” said Bailes. 

Following the ceremony, The Vindicator asked Bailes to address those differences, especially to Liberty County voters, who have overwhelmingly supported both men. 

“I 100% support Gov. Abbott on over 99% of the things we do, but the only place we have a difference of opinion is how best to handle public education. His job is to look at it from a statewide perspective, and my job is to look at what’s best for House District 18,” said Bailes. 

During the conversation, he elaborated on the district's rural makeup, including Liberty, San Jacinto, Hardin, and East Montgomery Counties, and the need to protect schools and the community they provide. 

“The kids matter. That’s where the buck stops, and I’ve got to make sure we do the best possible job to take care of every kid,” said Bailes. 

Abbott has already made clear that he plans to call another special session in the future, and public education, especially vouchers, will undoubtedly be on the agenda. 

In June the University of Texas and the Texas Politics Project poll surveyed over 1,500 Texans. It showed significant support for vouchers, with 58% in support, 27% opposed, and 15% without opinion. 

Polling information from Raise Your Hand Texas suggests another story citing the 2023 Texas Education Poll, conducted by the Charles Butt Foundation, which shows 54% of all Texans oppose vouchers.  

“Saying no to vouchers, which would funnel taxpayer dollars to unaccountable private schools and vendors, is fundamental to protecting and preserving public schools that are committed to each and every student,” said Smith.  

The polling shows a stark contrast in data, likely leading to more contentious arguments over the subject.  

For more information on Raise Your Hand Texas and its mission and a complete list of honorees, visit