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

By PTA Mom
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 canprepare me for Texas’ 2014 gubernatorial campaign season upon us.

While Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) only announced her run for Texas governorearlier 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 2011filibuster, 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.

8 comments

  • Arline Mimi Jensen

    Anyone is better than Perry who is a pretty farm boy who smoked too much hay! He turned down education money from Obama and health care money. Now all of the federal taxes we pay in Texas is going to other States! ! ! ! ! our teachers in Cy-Fair alone did not get raises for over 5 years, so many are still working second jobs just to support their families. Most cant afford the medical Insurance so they can’t afford to have children.
    We all know that the best teachers come from teacher parents! My granddaughter decided to be a teacher because she has a passion to teach children. She always loved school and I am not going to tell her not to go for the teaching degree and to go for what makes more money because then Perry can bring in teachers from other states!
    I am going to work my tail off to make sure someone gets elected from our democrat side. I learned a lot about the teachers and education and outdated education codes that need to be all thrown out and completely revamped to pay the teachers more money and provide affordable insurance! I found that you have to be an attorney to even understand the codes. Perry just goes along with his party because he can’t read code and he has never gone around the state like he should and hear what the parents are saying.
    Healthcare is another issue. Perry again turned down federal money for health care again, because we are too proud here in Texas accept help type of attitude of his! I have always been blessed with private insurance, I had no idea how the practitioners and the administrators are the ones taking advantage of medicare and medicaid and are driving the costs up! its not the patients. I know, cause I was brought into hospice caregiving for my younger sister who is on medicare. I wish I had time to write a book before elections to tell the truth in layman language about how the doctors and hospitals are driving the costs by taking advantage of disadvantaged patients who have no family to help them. My sister’s doctors asked who I was when I walked into her room and when they heard that I was her sister, I heard them say, “oh s****, I thought she was awarded to the state”. I couldn’t believe the bills for the unnecessary tests etc., it is really scary that intelligent voters have not picked up on this! at least the new pope is making sure the bishop who built a castle for his residence is going to pay for it and he didn’t need legal to make that decision. The health care workers who work directly with the patients do the strenuous work and offer caring hands, but get paid the cheapest and have crummy working conditions that are dictated by state and federal laws! Here in Texas we need to stop spending building and widening the stupid roads and freeways and spend money paying for good workers.

  • Carol Barnett

    Where does Ms. Davis stand on CSCOPE?

  • barbara armstrong

    Thank you. I already support her but this adds to my reasons why. I am an educator and a parent too.

  • Carol Nichols

    We should all be aware of the attack on public education through charter schools. There is no record of charter schools providing as good or better education in our state. All this to line the pockets of friends of politicians pushing this disastrous plan.

  • Mary

    Wendy for governor!

  • Tim Pertler

    Wendy Davis……………………………….YES!

  • Mary Wintermote

    What a wonderfully accurate post about Senator Davis’s work. Education is the gateway to so many necessary things in life. We need representation that will acknowledge that providing an exemplary education to all children is necessary for Texas to remain competitive not only with the country but the world in a growing global economy. I attribute my daughter’s ability to graduate in a few months with a BS in petroleum engineering directly to dedicated teachers and a strong math/science curriculum.in our school district. This must continue so that all children will have a change to achieve their dreams. We had our chance not it’s their turn.

  • Karen Fortier

    I am an avid supporter of education in Texas schools, which makes me so proud to stand with Wendy as our next governor. She will be extraordinary in the job with her record on women’s rights, as well. We need her to stand firm on a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work, equal voting rights, as well as a woman’s right to decide on her personal decision regarding reproduction. It’s time to turn Texas blue and rid our state of the good ol’ boys who have no respect for anyone, especially women and children!

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