Candidates talk school choice, testing at Fort Worth convention

06/26/2014 12:43 PM

06/26/2014 5:57 PM

The major party candidates for Texas governor, in Fort Worth Thursday to talk to educators, both said they oppose heavy testing, but disagreed on the issue of school choice.

Those were among the key issues for about 275 educators at the Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel for the Texas Classroom Teachers Association convention. They heard Democrat Wendy Davis in the morning, as well as Leticia Van de Putte, the Democrat running for lieutenant governor. The Republican gubernatorial candidate, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, spoke in the afternoon.

“This is where we discuss educational issues and we have everybody’s opinion heard,” said Grace Mueller, president of the association. “This is where we build our platform, basically.”

“All Texas children deserve a quality education,” said Davis, a former Fort Worth councilwoman, Thursday morning.

She outlined a plan that included quality, all-day pre-kindergarten for all Texas 4-year-olds, less testing, raising teacher salaries and making college more accessible and affordable to Texas students.

“Every child should be part of the promise of Texas,” Davis said after describing how education gave her opportunities to emerge from poverty.

Abbott took the podium at about 3 p.m. Before outlining his vision, he displayed his first grade report card to illustrate the importance of early education.

“We can and we will build the best education in America,” Abbott said. “It starts with you, the teachers of Texas.”

Abbott said he wants to make Texas number one in the nation in education. He said Texans should strive to make sure students are reading and doing math at grade level by the time they finish third grade.

Abbott also promised to invest in early education through added “pre-literacy and pre-numeracy” programs and teacher training for pre-kindergarten teachers. He said he also wants to help move away from “mandates from Austin” so teachers won’t have to worry about red tape.

Abbott also stressed the need to get away from too much high-stakes testing.

“I believe that there’s too much of a focus on teaching to the test and standardized tests,” Abbott told reporters after his speech.

Davis opposes school choice proposals, while Abbott supports them.

“It’s code for vouchers,” Davis said. “We also know that vouchers mean bleeding precious resources out of our public school classrooms and we cannot afford to bleed any more from classrooms.”

Abbott said he supports school choice because it gives parents a voice about where their children attend classes. He said it also builds competition among schools, which can help improve them all.

“My plan doesn’t talk about private schools,” Abbott said. “My plan focuses solely on public schools. Choice within the public school system.”

Earlier, Van de Putte also talked about the need to help quality teachers in classrooms. She said that with reduced testing teachers can focus on student needs.

Dan Patrick, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor was unable to attend.

Outside the convention, three protestors carried signs criticizing Abbott. They questioned state contracts given to a law firm that has contributed to his campaign.

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