Election 2014 Caravan of Delights: Texas Gubernatorial Race
As we get closer to the Nov. 4 general election, I will take a look each day at a state election of interest. (If you've missed my election reporting from California, Florida, and Georgia, you've still got time to catch up!) I'll look at polling numbers and the candidates' general positions on K-12 issues, and I'll also highlight the political and policy environments that are influencing the debate about public schools. For the sake of brevity, I'll only focus on the Democratic and Republican candidates. Today I'll start with the race for governor in Texas.
In the Lone Star State, Democratic candidate and state Sen. Wendy Davis has attracted a lot of national press attention to the governor's race there, stemming from her opposition to a bill placing new restrictions on abortions. (I wrote about Davis back in 2013.) But that prominence hasn't translated into a close race, as her Republican opponent, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, has consistently held a big lead in the polls, according to the running polling average kept by Real Clear Politics:
Davis, who highlights the role of education in her personal story, is also keen to highlight another filibuster she took part in: her opposition to the $5.4 billion cut to K-12 that the state approved in 2011. Those cuts are the subject of a high-profile legal battle in Texas—the state restored some of that 2011 cut in its 2013 session, but the districts that sued the state to stop the $5.4 billion cut say their reduced budgets still violate the state constitution.
Her K-12 platform hits on a lot of hot issues for Democratic candidates around the country. Davis highlights her support for a 2013 state law that reduced the number of state standardized tests students must take, and also wants expanded early education programs.
As the state's top law enforcement official, Abbott defended Texas against the district's lawsuit over K-12 spending cuts. He appealed District Court Judge John Dietz's August ruling that those cuts were unconstitutional.
However, Abbott told teachers last month that like Davis, he supports more resources for early education, and has a blueprint for improving the educational system for Texas' youngest students. Concurrently, he wants fewer Texas students in federal Head Start programs. In an interview with a radio station, he also said that teachers are underpaid.
Other Delights in the Caravan
The GOP candidate for Texas lieutenant governor is state Sen. Dan Patrick, who battled Davis over his proposal to create a new tax-credit scholarship program in Texas (Patrick's proposal ultimately failed). Patrick, a strong proponent of charter schools, is the chairman of the Senate education committee, and his elevation to the number two position in Texas government could bring a new focus on K-12 to the state's executive branch.
And the ongoing school finance trial will also create an interesting education backdrop when Texas legislators reconvence in 2015, regardless of who is governor.