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Campaign: Davis Returns to School

Team Wendy working on changing narrative

By Michael King, Fri., Feb. 14, 2014

Wendy Davis at ACC Rio Grande
Wendy Davis at ACC Rio Grande
Photo by Michael King

On the gubernatorial campaign trail this week, the subjects at issue were a Texas smorgasbord: public school funding, medical marijuana, "third-world" insults, and even more handguns for everybody. Just another week on the stump.

In a brief press conference Monday morning outside the ACC Rio Grande campus, Democrat Wendy Davis called on her GOP opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, to "move to settle" the current public school funding lawsuit. "Now is the time to end this mess," she said. "It's time to move forward."

Reading from a prepared statement, Davis briefly described the history of the 2011 legislative spending cuts, the lawsuit brought by a coalition of about 600 underfunded school districts, and the partial restoration of school funding by the 2013 Legislature. State Judge John Dietz has already declared the current state of school funding inadequate under the Texas constitution; he's reviewing the 2013 legislative decisions in anticipation of an updated ruling in the next month or two. "So here we are," said Davis, "locked in a legal battle that everyone, except General Abbott, seems to know is over. He's defending the indefensible."

On the campaign trail, Abbott has declined to comment on the lawsuit or school funding, saying he cannot do so as counsel to the state, obligated to defend state legislation. Davis noted that a lawyer has an obligation to counsel his client on a rational course of action, and concluded, "The simple fact is, Greg Abbott needs to stop this nonsense. He needs to stop defending the indefensible. He needs to settle this case. And, as a candidate for governor, he needs to tell us what he'd do to improve our public schools."

Asked what such a settlement might look like, Davis said Abbott could recommend to the Lege that it address the "broken" school funding formulas – in a special session if necessary – and respond to Dietz's ruling with the adequate funding for public schools. She said there are sufficient resources to address the problem – pointing specifically to the Rainy Day Fund – and noting that Dietz cited "$10 billion" as a working target for adequate funding. Since the Legislature cut more than $5 billion from schools in 2011, and restored only $3.4 billion in 2013, Davis said much work needs to be done, and it should begin with Abbott settling the suit and making recommendations to the Legislature.

In response to questions, Davis also defended her support for "open carry" of handguns – saying it should be a local decision, including on university campuses, noting that she had proposed such an amendment when the open-carry legislation was considered. She also revisited Abbott's recent remark about "third-world" corruption along the Texas border. Without directly criticizing Abbott, Davis said public officials need to be sensitive in speaking about border communities. "Words matter," she said, "and words have an impact." (Abbott has since said he was describing corruption "wherever [it] is found," not just in the Rio Grande Valley.)

And in a discussion with the Dallas Morn­ing News editorial board this week, Davis said medical marijuana "should be allowed for," and that the state should consider decriminalization of minor pot possession (echoing earlier remarks by Gov. Rick Perry). In response, the Abbott campaign issued a statement reiterating the attorney general's support for existing drug laws.

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