Attorney General Greg Abbott, the leading Republican candidate for governor of Texas, and State Senator Wendy Davis, his expected Democratic opponent, are on opposite sides of the education spectrum. Abbott's focus is on encouraging less state involvement in public schools while Davis' is on supporting and bolstering the traditional public education system currently in place.
Education is currently a frequent talking point for both parties, whereas other candidates have mostly avoided the topic, especially in terms of an overhaul of public education. It was also the focus of a keynote address early this month before the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative research and advocacy group.
Both candidates are trying to lay claim to voters who care about the public education system, writes Morgan Smith in The New York Times. Senator Davis' campaign's first major policy initiative included a college loan forgiveness program for prospective teachers and a call to raise pay for educators as well as a proposal focused on greater college preparation for students.
Attorney General Abbott has done a series of campaign stops at schools in the form of round table discussions across the state to discuss the growth of charter schools and virtual learning. He has not released the details of his education policies as of yet, though he has praised changes that teachers' groups have traditionally opposed such as those that deal with hiring and firing. He wants to ensure parents have more freedom to choose where their children attend school and for principals to have more control over their school's with less state interference. Abbott currently seeks further privatization of Texan schools and fewer state regulations.
An Abbott campaign spokesman, Avdiel Huerta, said Mr. Abbott â goal was "to make Texas' education system No. 1 in the country."
Davis is currently a favorite of various Texas teachers' associations — her campaign recently received a $125,000 donation from the American Federation of Teachers — that have tended to dominate state education politics. Also, her campaign has continually emphasized her involvement in education throughout her career, while Abbott as an attorney general was involved in a lawsuit brought by more than two-thirds of Texas' school districts in which they said the state underfunded them.
"I think there is a stark difference between these two candidates. Wendy has been at the forefront of trying to support and bolster the traditional public education system," the president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, Linda Bridges, said. "Greg Abbott is about charter schools and the privatizing of education. Those are the two opposite ends of where we are in Texas right now."
Those issues are among the policy priorities of a new political action committee, Texans for Education Reform, which has nearly $1 million in the bank and so far has donated only to state legislators. It has not decided who will receive its support in the governor's race or any other statewide contests, a spokeswoman said.