SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis told a gathering of Texas journalists Saturday that the state's public education system needs to change and that her Republican opponent represents the status quo.
Speaking at the Associated Press Managing Editors annual meeting in South Padre Island, the Fort Worth senator contrasted her education proposals with those of state Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee who released the first pieces of his education plan just days earlier.
"His proposals this week reflect a business as usual approach that will undermine and weaken our schools," Davis said. "Under his pre-K proposal, he picks and chooses which children will get a quality education."
Abbott this week outlined a pre-kindergarten plan that calls on districts to improve the quality of preschool before the state considers spending money on full-day programs. At an elementary school in Weslaco on Monday, Abbott proposed up to $118 million in pre-K dollars for districts that meet higher standards.
On Saturday, Davis said that wasn't enough.
"Full day versus half-day pre-k programs produce better and longer term benefits not only in terms of child development but ultimately achievement in life," Davis said. "We are putting our economy at risk because these are the people that we need to fill the jobs of tomorrow."
Abbott also was invited to speak Saturday but was unavailable. Spokesman Matt Hirsch said Abbott's education proposals aim at making Texas first in education.
"Sen. Davis' plan is surface-level, vague and filled with pandering promises," Hirsch said. "Sen. Davis knows she cannot win on substance and is clearly willing to settle for style points."
Abbott also called for standardized assessments to measure students' progress in pre-K programs, a point that Davis characterized as drawing 4-year-olds into the state's testing regimen. Asked if she would support some kind of standardized kindergarten readiness test, Davis said full-day pre-K programs would create the opportunity for teachers to evaluate whether the students are ready for kindergarten.
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Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber in Austin contributed to this report.