By Bobby Blanchard
Education leaders praised additions to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ education platform on Wednesday — efforts her campaign says will increase college affordability and improve graduation rates.
The campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, meanwhile, is criticizing those policy proposals for lacking details, such as how much she thinks her measures will cost, and for having the potential to grow the size of government.
Davis unveiled the new plans in San Antonio on Tuesday. They include creating a Career-Technical Coordinating Board, which would coordinate between businesses and schools to ease the entry into technical jobs for students. She also proposed opening the B-On-Time loan program to part-time students and seeking "full funding" for the TEXAS Grant program to create more financial aid for students. In Austin on Wednesday, the president of the Texas State Teachers Association and vice president of Education Austin, an Austin ISD labor union, endorsed Davis’ plans and said they supported her.
“I’m proud to support Wendy Davis, who is a champion of our schools,” said Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association. “Wendy Davis has fought for us, and now she has a plan to invest in our students from the pre-K level to higher education.”
Abbott campaign spokeswoman Amelia Chassé was less impressed; she said Tuesday that “Sen. Davis continues to present talking points and press releases dressed as policy proposals that contain few details, lack any cost information and will grow the size of government."
On Wednesday, at an appearance with Davis, Candelaria and Montserrat Garibay, vice president of Education Austin, both criticized Abbott for continuing to defend the state in a lawsuit filed by a coalition of school districts. The school districts sued over $5.4 billion in public education spending cuts lawmakers made in 2011. Davis has called on Abbott to settle the case.
Davis has made education one of her leading platform points. On Wednesday, she highlighted her first but less famous filibuster — against the 2011 cuts. Davis said she led the effort to restore more than $3 billion of those cuts during the 2013 session.
Earlier this year, Davis released a plan to increase the number of teachers in Texas by promising automatic college admission to any public university for the top 20 percent of students graduating from Texas high schools if they promised to pursue a career in teaching.
In remarks to the media on Wednesday, Davis also responded to fresh criticism from Abbott’s campaign about her tax return. The Abbott campaign attacked her over a penalty in Davis' tax return, which The Texas Tribune published in full on Tuesday afternoon. According to Davis' full tax return, she paid a $1,246 penalty in 2013.
“Days after giving her tax return to the media but prohibiting them from publishing it, we now know why she wanted to keep it hidden from Texans — because she paid a fine to the IRS for paying her taxes late,” Chassé said in a statement. “Sen. Davis has no problem personally profiting from Texas taxpayers, but it's clear that she's not ready to manage Texas' budget — let alone her own."
Davis told reporters on Wednesday that Abbott's campaign "got his facts wrong" and mischaracterized the fee.
“For many years I have filed an extension on my taxes, like many Texans, many Americans do,” Davis said. “This was keeping with common practice for me. Once again Greg Abbott is mischaracterizing the facts about that fee. I paid a fee, which is the difference between my estimated quarterly tax payments and my actual annual revenues earned.”
On her tax return, however, Davis left blank the line for estimated tax payments made during the year, indicating she paid none throughout the year. A spokesman for the Davis campaign confirmed this is how she normally handles her tax return.