Texans petition Dewhurst to return Davis to Senate education committee

Posted Friday, Feb. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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AUSTIN -- Petitions calling for state Sen. Wendy Davis' reinstatement to the Senate Education Committee were presented to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's office Friday on the eve of an Austin rally calling for the restoration of billions of dollars in state education funding.

Melanie Harvey, a fourth-grade teacher in the Everman school district, delivered the bound petitions to Dewhurst's office. She said they contained 3,652 names collected online since Jan. 19.

Dewhurst was not there. The petitions were given to Caasi Lamb, Dewhurst's senior adviser for budget and policy.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, was on the Education Committee during the two previous legislative sessions, but Dewhurst, the Senate's presiding officer, didn't put her back on when he made new assignments in January at the start of this session.

Some observers saw Dewhurst's decision as a rebuke to Davis for a high-profile filibuster she staged at end of the 2011 session to protest more than $5 billion in education funding cuts. Davis has made restoration of the funding a major initiative in this session.

Harvey was accompanied by her husband, John Harvey, a TCU economics professor, and Allen Weeks of Austin, director of Save Texas Schools, which is sponsoring the Saturday rally.

Melanie Harvey said the petition drive, conducted over the Internet, drew comments from across the political perspective.

"I find it appalling that you would allow your partisan position to affect a very qualified senator whom our community just loves," wrote Kathleen Schlichenmaier of Arlington, in comments apparently directed at Dewhurst. "Please place our elected senator on the committee."

"This Republican mother wants Sen. Davis on the committee," said Julie Soughty of Frisco. "Shame on Lt. Gov. Dewhurst." She said Davis' office was aware of the drive but did not participate.

"They're appreciative of it, but they've kind of stayed out of it," she said.

The Harveys, parents of two college-age twin daughters, said they planned to remain in Austin to participate in the march and rally today. Melanie Harvey said she expects significant participation from North Texas, including a busload of parents from the Everman district.

Weeks, who helped stage a similar rally in 2011, said organizers are hoping for up to 10,000 participants to gather at 11 a.m. and march to the Capitol for a noon rally and speeches.

Scheduled speakers include former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott and Diane Ravitch, an education historian and leading opponent of education reforms such as test-based accountability and charter schools.

Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram's Austin bureau chief.

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Twitter: @daveymontgomery

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