The Texas American Federation of Teachers this week endorsed State Sen. Wendy Davis in her run for Texas Governor.
“When we offer to stand with a candidate and work for their election, we spend an enormous amount of time looking at their positions on education issues to ensure they will be effective leaders in developing policies that support our schoolchildren,” said Linda Bridges, Texas AFT President. “When we looked through everything Wendy has done for Texas education, it came as no surprise that she has always been at the forefront of the fight to help our schoolchildren and the teachers that serve them. In short, she’s a champion for public education and a warrior in the fight to fend off efforts to defund and privatize our schools.”
Bridges noted that Davis has been a proven leader in the Texas Senate on a variety of issues supporting working Texans and children. “With Davis at the helm, we’ll finally put an end to the ideological puppet show of the current governor and welcome in a new era of thoughtful governance that seeks progress and solutions over party politics.”
Bridges outlined some of the highlights of Davis’s work over the past three legislative sessions:
• Wendy stood up for Texas schoolchildren with a filibuster to try and stop $5.4 billion in cuts to education in 2011. She supports more investment in education and a more equitable system of funding schools.
• Wendy served on the Senate Education Committee and developed an expertise on education issues. (She continued to attend committee meetings even after being ousted from the body as punishment for filibustering the education cuts.)
• Wendy supports efforts to end the misuse of testing, pushed for more transparency in the $500 million state testing contracts, and supports proven investments in education like full-day Pre-K.
• Wendy supports teachers. She fought legislation promoting unpaid furloughs for school employees and changes that reduced their employment rights. Bridges stressed that education needs to be among the top priorities for any candidate for Governor, yet a chief contender for the general election in November is nowhere to be found when it comes to addressing education issues.
“It’s to the point of bizarre that Greg Abbott is practically silent on education issues, which has been one of the top three priorities for state leadership every legislative session for as long as I can remember,” she said. “Abbott’s campaign site includes a host of things he’s interested in and more than 100 blog posts, but nothing on education.”
More background on Sen. Wendy Davis’s achievements for public education and school employees:
• In 2011 Wendy Davis made her presence felt with a filibuster that blew the whistle on deep budget cuts affecting public education and making permanent downward changes in school funding. As she said at the time, those cuts were part of “a budget that wreaks havoc on public education and healthcare while doing nothing to solve the long-term problems that got us here in the first place.” Her tough stance in 2011 helped keep those cuts from becoming permanent and paved the way for restoration this year of 85 percent of the per-pupil aid to school districts that was taken away in 2011.
• Restoring funding for education this year still took a tough fight, and Davis was ready for it. When the Senate leadership came up with successive budget plans that continued most of the cuts, Davis offered amendment after amendment, showing how the leadership was using what she called “fuzzy math,” and showing how the money was there if the leadership was there to use it.
• Davis has played a key role in defeating voucher proposals that would drain vital funding from public education to subsidize private schools that are not accountable to taxpayers.
• This year Davis fought and won the battle against unfair teacher evaluation measures making improper use of students’ scores on standardized state tests. Thanks to her amendment, that language disappeared from the Senate floor.
• Davis joined Texas AFT in 2011 in the fight against permanent changes in teachers’ contracts and compensation rights—changes that were sold under false pretenses of temporary measures to help the state weather a financial crisis.
• This legislative session, when the powers that be insisted that the state could not do any more to increase contributions to the TRS pension fund, Davis wouldn’t take no for an answer. Thanks to her tenacity, hundreds of millions of additional dollars were found in the state budget for this purpose, and starting this school year the state contribution to the TRS pension fund will be higher than the employee contribution and higher than the state’s share in any of the past 18 years. That effort helped pave the way for a modest pension increase for some retirees, who have not seen a cost-of-living increase since 2001.
• Davis took on the standardized testing juggernaut and the multi-million-dollar industry behind it with an amendment requiring an audit of test providers to ensure the tests are reliable and valid. (Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the bill carrying her amendment, even though it passed unanimously through the state House and Senate.)
• Thanks to one of Davis’s bills this session, special-education teachers no longer will be compelled to waste months of their time and their students’ time devising tests for the state to use to determine if students with severe disabilities are meeting standards. From now on, the state will devise the tests, and the teachers can get back to teaching.
Texas AFT represents more than 65,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.5-millionmember American Federation of Teachers.