Abbott, Davis Parlay Over Pre-K

Some very revealing plans for Pre-K came out of the Abbott campaign. Here’s the low-down from the Texas Tribune, including Wendy Davis’ response…

Announcing the first of his education policy proposals Monday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott called for reforming pre-kindergarten programs before expanding access, saying that additional funding should be tied to academic outcomes.

Abbott’s plan, which was unveiled in Weslaco, proposes providing an additional $1,500 per student on top of the funding the state already provides for half-day pre-K programs if the program meets performance requirements set by the state.

“Expanding the population of students served by existing state-funded programs without addressing the quality of existing prekindergarten instruction or how it is being delivered would be an act of negligence and waste,” Abbott’s policy proposal reads.

Abbott’s proposal comes with a $118 million price tag in the 2016-17 biennium and includes a focus on annual reviews for children beginning school in 2016…

On Monday, Davis was quick to respond to Abbott’s call for reforming pre-K instead of expanding access.

“The fact that Greg Abbott thinks it’s a ‘waste’ to ensure all Texas children have access to pre-K explains why he’s still fighting to defend nearly $200 million in cuts to pre-K in the courtroom,” Davis said in a statement. “Abbott’s plan of pre-K for the chosen few but not for all hardworking Texas children would set our state backwards at a time we need to prepare for a 21st-century economy.”

Earlier in the day, Davis also attacked Abbott before he released his proposal, calling his policies hypocritical given his defense of the state in court as part of the school finance lawsuit.

Abbott’s Pre-K “plan” is tailor-made for his mostly Conservative, non-minority audience. He proposes that instead of trying to take care of all Texas children, we should instead shift more resources to programs that are already doing well, and let the struggling children fall further behind.

But unlike years past for Democrats, Wendy Davis is able to offer a competing vision that will get noticed by voters. After massive cuts to public education in 2011, Davis lambastes Abbott for daring to cut some programs even further. She also mentions a landmark lawsuit where Texas schools are suing the state due to severe under-funding from the Legislature’s 2011 education budget slash-fest. One has to agree with Davis in this case…. having our precious Pre-schoolers compete in a Hunger Games battle for their education is not the way to make Texas a better state.

The sheer immediacy of the response to Abbott is impressive, and presents further evidence of a bold shift for the Davis campaign, and even for the Texas Democratic Party. Here’s hoping they can keep the heat on Abbott through November. It’s quite astounding that the Abbott campaign would be bold enough to even mention education platform this early before November. Are they giving Democrats free ammunition here? No matter one’s political stripes, everyone in the state of Texas lived through those ridiculous cuts in 2011, and they know that schools haven’t nearly recovered. As the Attorney General has proven today, a Davis administration would be much better for our kids.

(photo credit: CBS DFW 11)

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