Today Greg Abbott unveiled the Pre-K – 3rd grade portion of his “Educating Texans” policy proposal. Likening our education system to a house cracking from a faulty foundation, he proposed creating new state standards based on performance before expanding full day Pre-K access to more students. To do otherwise he said would be “an act of negligence and waste.”
His plan centered around a “Gold Standard” that would have to be adopted by School Districts in order to qualify for an additional $1,500 per student.
Public education is something his Gubernatorial opponent Senator Wendy Davis sees as a her strong suit and a major issue for November voters, and this proposal is also one of Abbott's first major policy plans after being criticized throughout the primary campaign for being mum on many issues.
More plus Wendy Davis' reaction below the jump…Abbott's plan does not include ending the lawsuit over education cuts that saw over $200 million struck from the Pre-K Early Start Grant program, which prompted Davis to say his “hypocrisy is astounding.” She said, “It's completely dishonest for Greg Abbott to be talking about early education at the same time he's defending deep cuts to Texas pre-K in the courtroom.”
In the same statement Abbott says, “Our public education system is too centralized with one-size-fits-all solutions,” and that, “We have too many unnecessary, unfunded mandates from Austin,” he goes on to say, “my plan provides additional funding to any state-funded Pre-K 4 program that adopts the Gold Standard Plan.” But, Abbott promises “flexibility.”
“Districts that adopt the Pre-K 4 Gold Standard will receive an increase in per-student funding. However, the districts will have flexibility to determine the most effective way to use that funding to meet the Gold Standard requirements. Some districts may choose to hire more teachers. Others may expand to full day Pre-K 4. Others may choose to expand their existing partnerships with private providers.“
It sounds a lot like Abbott is pushing Charter Schools and/or additional public funding for just some instead of Pre-K for all. Davis on the other hand released a statement reiterating her position that all children deserve access to full day Pre-K, and the plan she released earlier this year called “Great Schools: Great Texas.” Davis' plan includes quality standards and rewards for effective programs, and expands eligibility to families above 185% of the federal poverty level on a sliding scale.
Abbott's campaign has called Davis plan “fuzzy” and more “unfunded promises,” yet Davis has repeatedly called for funding education through the Rainy Day Fund and in the case of Early Childhood Education, grants.
Abbott says our Pre-K system is broken and he wants to fix it by scaling it back and imposing new “standards.” He says if Districts want additional funding they can look to the federal government or propose municipal bonds. That's essentially what happened in San Antonio when Mayor Julian Castro proposed a small tax increase that would provide Pre-K for all children that attend public school in San Antonio.
Abbott says in his own statement that, “some studies have shown that high quality Pre-K programs can have measurable benefits – not just as the child advances in school – but also in an increase in lifetime wages and a reduction in crime and dependence on public assistance,” yet his proposal doesn't provide that benefit to all Texas children.
Texans need a Governor that not only understands that connection, but will take the leadership role in making it a reality. Abbott says he wants Texas to have the best education system in country within the next decade, but who has been in charge the last decade? The same Party who elected an Attorney General who is still fighting over 600 of the state's school districts in court — over funding.
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