Wendy Davis Is An Advocate For Texas Public Education

In June, Wendy Davis, Texas State Democratic Senator from Ft. Worth, made national news when she conducted an eleven hour filibuster to prevent the passage of a bill that would close all but five abortion clinics in the State of Texas. While she was successful in  preventing a vote during that session of the State legislature, the bill eventually did pass in a special session that was called the next day by Governor Rick Perry.

Because of her filibuster, Wendy has become known primarily as a pro-choice advocate and campaigner. But, Wendy, who announced her candidacy for governor of Texas in September, represents and stands for much more than women’s rights. She is also a strong advocate for the education of Texas children and our state public school system.

Below is a great article that addresses Wendy’s record on education in the Texas House of Representatives as well as some of the public recognition she has received for her work for Texas education. The article also shares some about Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Texas governor, and his record on education, which is, by-the-way, virtually non-existent.

The article was written by Kim Burdett and published in the October 28, 2013 edition of the “educate for Texas” blog.

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PTA Mom Asks: Are You Sure You Really Know Wendy Davis?

educate for Texas :: Kim Burkett :: October 28, 2013

Guilty pleasure confession: I watch reality television. There, I said it. The Amazing Race, Survivor, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills – I’ve burned brain cells watching them all. Yet despite my well-earned status as reality television connoisseur, no amount of TV backbiting or acrimony I’ve seen can prepare me for Texas’ 2014 gubernatorial campaign season upon us.

While Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) only announced her run for Texas governor earlier this month, the silly season of gubernatorial politics had begun months ago. (Quick recap: Davis gained worldwide attention this summer as the 83rd Texas legislature considered Senate Bill 5, an omnibus abortion restriction bill that dramatically reduces the number of abortion facilities in the state of Texas. More than 180,000 viewers tuned in to watch the ultimate reality TV show as Davis fought the bill for nearly 12 hours. It was the filibuster heard round the world and it catapulted the senator from Fort Worth into the national limelight and into the race for our next governor.)

Since then, Senator Davis has been labeled “baby killer,” “abortion Barbie,” ”retarded Barbie,” and other smears. Some have even resorted to using social media to launch death threats against the senator. As the attacks mount, it quickly becomes clear that many Texans seem to have no idea who Wendy Davis really is.

Okay, so you’ve heard about her stand for women’s health issues. You watched the filibuster. You saw the pink sneakers. You may have even seen the Texas Monthly cover featuring Senator Davis or maybe the Vogue magazine spread.  But aside from the legislative circus and shenanigans you saw this summer, what else do you know? Are you familiar with Senator Davis’ record? There is more to Wendy Davis than this summer’s filibuster. Are you sure you really know her?

Here’s something that should be carefully considered by Texas parents and educators as they weigh their vote – Wendy Davis is a well-known and proven champion of public education. Senator Davis is quick to tell of the positive impact public education had on her life and has made it one of her key policy interests.  As a PTA Mom I’m quite familiar with Senator Davis’ work for public education. Let me tell you some things I know about Senator Davis that have absolutely nothing to do with abortion:

  • In September Texas PTA honored Senator Davis as one of only ten recipients of their Legislative Honor Roll recognition for her “outstanding work to strengthen and protect Texas public schools.” Texas PTA president Karen Slay called Senator Davis “a trusted friend to Texas PTA and a courageous defender of Texas children and their families.”
  • Did you know this summer’s filibuster wasn’t Senator Davis’ first? In 2011 Wendy Davis filibustered to defend public schools from $5.4 billion in budget cuts. Since that filibuster, we’ve learned those cuts were unnecessary due to faulty projections by the state comptroller.  While the cuts were still made (leaving new students unfunded for the first time since World War II), Senator Davis stood up for Texas public schools when few others did.
  • Likely as retribution for that 2011 filibuster, Senator Davis was removed from her position on the Senate Education Committee. But Davis showed up any way. By crashing the education committee meetings in 2013, she was an integral and vocal participant in fighting against Senator Dan Patrick’s (R-Houston) voucher scheme to funnel tax dollars from public schools to private schools. (That ill-conceived and unpopular bill ultimately died.)
  • She also helped collaborate and compromise to shape Patrick’s seemingly ALEC-based charter school bill, which began as a strange attempt to sell off taxpayer-owned school facilities to charter school management companies for the cost of $1 and to completely eliminate the cap on charter schools. Through bi-partisan compromise, Davis and members of the Senate Education Committee turned that bill into more palatable and productive legislation.
  • While the vast majority of her colleagues voted to pass a Senate budget in 2013 that only restored a paltry $1.5 billion to Texas schools (still reeling from the previous session’s historic cuts), Senator Davis was one of only two senators that voted against it. Recognizing that funding was available and that a court had just ruled public education funding unconstitutionally inadequate, Senator Davis stood in the distinct minority arguing that the legislature hadn’t done enough to restore funding to public schools.
  • In the 83rd legislature, Senator Davis was also influential in legislation that reduces the number of standardized tests; audits Texas’ testing contractor, Pearson, for accountability; helps students in foster care transition within public schools; and provides children of active duty military families flexibility in regards to school attendance requirements.

In the interest of equal time, let’s also look at Senator Davis’ gubernatorial competitor, Attorney General Greg Abbott.  Where does Attorney General Abbott stand on public education? I have no idea.

Interestingly, education isn’t listed as an issue on his campaign website. According to his website, Abbott’s focus seems to be protecting the 2nd amendment, reining in the EPA, and defending “traditional values.” Sadly the nearly 160-year old Texas tradition of public education doesn’t appear to be one of the values he’s trying to defend.

Perhaps Attorney General Abbott doesn’t recognize public education as an important issue to Texans. (I guess he’s not familiar with this recent Texas Lyceum poll that showed Texans identify education as the top issue facing the state.) Or perhaps he believes in the lawsuit his office is defending against the 600-some school districts that have sued the state; his office contending that despite being 49th in the nation in education investment that Texas is doing an adequate job in providing for its schools. (In the attorney general’s defense, it’s in his job description to defend the state of Texas.)

But without a voting record to look at and with education missing as one of his key campaign issues, it’s difficult to discern Greg Abbott’s opinions on public education policy – or if he even has any. There have been some clichéd mentions of “education reform” thrown into a few stump speeches and ambiguous talk of “outputs,” but no real policy discussion you can evaluate when considering the candidate.

While I look forward to hearing more from candidate Abbott about his thoughts on public education, his lack of attention to education policy is disconcerting. Texas has just spent more than a decade under leadership disinterested in public education, willing to let it wither and die from chronic underfunding, anxious to sell it off to private interests, and quick to prostitute it to Big Testing. This leadership void has taken its toll on our public schools and Texas students. And it will ultimately take a toll on our businesses and economic development. Can we afford another decade of negligence to the education system that will produce the future workforce for our growing state? That’s a decision you should consider when voting in 2014.

If this PTA Mom blog sounds like a love letter to Wendy Davis – well, frankly, it is. I love the fact that Senator Davis proudly and vocally supports public schools and Texas students at this strange time in our state history when few lawmakers are willing to make such a stand.  I love the fact that Senator Davis is one of the few Texas legislators willing to uphold her oath to support the Texas Constitution, including Article 7, Section 1 which declares that a public system of education is the responsibility of our legislature. I love the fact that Senator Davis recognizes the importance of my child’s education and is willing to battle special interests and lawmaking ideologues on his behalf. I love the fact that Wendy Davis is a living example of and poster child for the opportunities that public education can offer Texas students.  I love the fact that Wendy Davis is “a trusted friend” to Texas PTA.

Personally, that’s all this PTA Mom needs to hear.

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