Today, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis unveiled the first part of her education policy plan at the University of Texas at Arlington. Part I is entitled “Great Teachers: Great Texas.” Davis gained initial notoriety in 2011 when she filibustered for a short time to try to stop billions of dollars in education cuts.
“Take it from me,” said Davis, “great teachers, great schools, and access to affordable education can make or break a young woman's hard-earned effort to make a better life for her and her family or her burning desire to be another great Texas business leader. As someone who went from working multiple low-paid jobs to community college, to a successful career in business, I have worked hard to both keep jobs here and attract new businesses.”
The plan proposes six basic policy points that would encourage more smart Texans to become teachers or keep our great teachers within the profession. While Greg Abbott won't even say if he would support restoring any more of the $5.4 Billion in education cuts from 2011, Wendy Davis is proposing specifics.
Here are the basics reforms proposed by Wendy Davis's released plan:
1. High school students in the top 20% of his or her class during junior year who commit to teaching will be guaranteed early acceptance to college and a guaranteed teaching job in a Texas classroom upon completing his or her requirements and certification.
2. Expand the Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Program.
3. Reestablish the educational aide exemption to help teachers aides go back to school for certification as full-time teachers.
4. Create a pathway for students specific to teacher readiness within the Public Service Endorsement of current Texas law.
5. Attract and retain highly-qualified teachers by bringing Texas teacher pay in line with the rest of the country.
6. Increase the supply of qualified school counselors, who are required under Texas law to be certified, experienced teachers.
The Wendy Davis campaign also released a longer memorandum with specific details of the plan. Wendy Davis believes that if education is a budget priority as it should be, her plan can be paid for by current funds.
Each idea is specific will improve Texas education. For those who know a lot about education policy, nothing on here is an earth-shattering proposal, but it's more comprehensive than any statewide candidate in Texas has offered in years. The Democrat in 2010, Bill White, only had a general 5-point plan that said nothing about encouraging Texans to become or stay teachers. Wendy Davis released six parts today, and it is just Part I of her plan. The “issues” page on Greg Abbott's website does not even mention the word “education.” Not even once.
That's right: Wendy Davis is releasing a comprehensive plan to make Texas education the best in America, but Greg Abbott's campaign thinks that education is not even an issue worth highlighting.
If the first part of Wendy Davis's plan is any indication, she will shatter the Republican myth that Democrats just want to “throw money at the problem” of education. These are precise proposals that will get results. The opposite of that myth purported by Republicans, by contrast, is closer to the truth: by fighting in favor of cuts to education (and not saying that he would have done otherwise as governor), Greg Abbott's plan appears to simply “take away as much money as politically possible.” Greg Abbott's spokesman Matt Hirsch responded to Davis's plan with this generality: “Greg Abbott believes in genuine local control of education: empowering parents, teachers and principals to serve our students well.”
But how does one empower teachers? Greg Abbott offers nothing. If anything, Abbott's complete disregard for public education might dis-empower some educators. Even if one might quibble with the details of her proposed policy, this much is clear: Wendy Davis's plan helps empower teachers.
I can't wait to see what Wendy Davis proposes next. Education has been on the backburner for Texas policy-makers for far too long. And when education is talked about, with the exception of testing discussions, legislators offer false choices about money. But it's more than that. Texan children deserve more, and it looks like Wendy Davis wants to give them that.