What a week! Texas froze, and the electrical grid nearly collapsed. Many families went for hours or days with no electricity or heat. Power failures at pumping stations and frozen pipes caused homes and schools to lose water pressure, too. Most schools cancelled in-person and distance learning for the whole week of February 15–19, and some schools closed campuses for longer. As stressful as this week has been, there were signs of hope—neighbors helping neighbors, and community organizations and businesses stepping up to help. As the snow melts and we go back to our pandemic lives, many of us have questions about how this happened. This presents an opportunity for us as parents and caregivers to flex our advocacy muscles and let our elected officials know how we feel.
Stories of the Winter Storm
Who is responsible for the unreliability of Texas’s electrical grid? That is a complicated question, and it may take some time to get to the bottom of it. In the short run, the important thing is to share your story with your elected officials so that they can take action to ensure we have a reliable supply of electricity for our safety and so kids can keep learning, while making sure that families can afford their utility bills and we are being good caretakers for our environment.
The Texas House Committee on State Affairs and Energy Resources has scheduled a hearing for 9:00 AM on Thursday, February 25 on the topic of “Statewide electrical blackouts—contributing factors and response.” Members of the public can submit comments to be considered at the hearing and made available to the public.
Senator José Menéndez created a survey—open through February 23 at 5:00 PM—to collect information from constituents about their experiences with the 2021 winter storm, to be discussed at a hearing of the Texas Senate Committee on Business Commerce.
Speaking Up to Elected Officials
We’ve written before about being a politically engaged parent. Those tips apply to this situation about power failures during the winter storm as much as they do about fighting for high quality education options for our kids.
The starting point is telling your story. It can be as simple as a few bullet points or an outline. How did the winter storm affect you and your family? Your story matters, and the elected officials are there to serve you. If you have been following the news and have ideas about how to make the situation better in the future, you should share those points in your message, too.
The next step is to find out who represents you. The Texas Legislature has an online tool; just enter your address to find your state representative and state senator, as well as higher elected officials. State elected officials, including the governor and the legislature, oversee the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
Bexar County also has an online tool that offers detailed information about local elected officials, including city council members who have oversight over CPS Energy and SAWS.
Once you have contact information for your elected officials, it’s time to send your message. After that, keep following the news—as well as social media accounts and newsletters—to make sure your elected officials are listening to their constituents and making sure a tragedy like the power outages of the 2021 winter storm never happens in Texas again.
Do you remember how you felt last week? Breaking out the camping equipment to stay warm? Sharing supplies with neighbors? Checking on elderly or homebound relatives? It was scary and frustrating. We have been paying our bills all these years, but our leaders were not living up to their promises to keep us safe. Now is that time to channel that anger into messages to your elected officials. By sharing your story, you can make change happen, and make our community a better place to live.
Read More About Advocacy and the Winter Storm
- “San Antonio schools reopening after winter storm added to pandemic’s learning losses,” Andres Picon, San Antonio Express-News, February 22, 2021
- “Texas Won’t Require School Districts To Make Up Days Missed During Power Blackouts,” Camille Phillips, Texas Public Radio, February 22, 2021
- “National Parents Union Helps Parents Drive Change in Education,” San Antonio Charter Moms, February 1, 2021
- “Charter School Advocacy: Community Building Through Social Media,” San Antonio Charter Moms, October 29, 2019
- “Charters 101: Being a Charter School Parent Advocate—Founders Schertz Edition,” San Antonio Charter Moms, March 5, 2018
- “Charter Schools in San Antonio: Tips for Being a Politically-Engaged Parent,” San Antonio Charter Moms, June 19, 2015
- “Civic Engagement: Getting Re-connected with State and Local Politics,” San Antonio Charter Moms, January 5, 2015