What I Believe
I believe the future of our communities depends on well-educated kids, and public school funding should be our number one budget priority. We cannot cut our way to success. Lawmakers in Austin are far more concerned with which bathroom our kids use at school than they are with the quality of the education our kids receive in every other room.
An investment in public education is an investment in our future. Well-educated students become valuable citizens that immeasurably enrich our state. Good public schools do more than just educate children - they enrich the value of the community itself, even for members of the community that don’t have children attending them. Quality public education should be the number one priority for our state’s budget.
Despite the Texas Supreme Court urging our legislature to reform the public school finance system from top to bottom, they chose to focus on vouchers and bathrooms instead. The system as it currently exists is legal, but so complicated that most legislators have no idea how it works, “lawful but awful.” Public school finance reform must be overhauled as soon as possible - our communities’ children can’t wait.
Education vouchers, often positioned as “school choice” programs, don’t help the neediest children, because they only offset the cost of private school education -they don’t provide enough money to cover the cost of private schools. Most discussions have revolved around providing $5,100-$5,300 for a public school student, but most private school tuitions are $7,000 and up. This will allow those that can already afford private schools to get a discount, but disadvantaged children will still have one choice. In addition, the playing field is uneven under the voucher system: the rules and laws that public schools must function under do not apply to private schools. Most public schools would welcome the competition of vouchers, if everyone had to follow the same rules. Data have shown that states that approved voucher programs have shown no significant improvement in student performance. Vouchers will remove badly needed funds from public schools and give them to institutions that are not answerable to the public, and whose performance is far from guaranteed.
A state standard for educational level attainment is fair and appropriate, to ensure that our schools are teaching the subjects our students will need to succeed in the future. Care should be taken to ensure that the TEKS standards used continue to be appropriate for the grade level and the subject being assessed. (Sources listed below.)
Oil and gas have served Texas well throughout her history, and our economy still depends on fossil fuels to a great degree, but no one believes that fossil fuels are the fuels of our future. Texas should be discovering ways to economically leverage the fuels of the future by investing in renewable energy sources like wind power, solar power, geothermal and biomass. Individual communities within the state must be allowed to decide how best to employ - or not employ - their natural resources. If a community democratically chooses not to allow natural gas exploration or harvesting within their community, the State of Texas must honor that decision.
Texans are too smart to put all their eggs in one basket. Whether you believe in anthropogenic climate change or not, the scientific consensus on the topic will push global governments in the direction of adopting energy generation through renewable resources. It’s in Texas’ best interest to begin investing in alternative energy production now, before it becomes a mandate. Investing in renewable resources will give Texas a competitive advantage in energy production. Texas currently leads the states in total energy production - almost twice the BTU’s generated by our closest competitor, Wyoming. By diversifying our energy production portfolio, we can maintain our state’s leadership in energy production, even if the regulatory environment changes.
There’s no shortage of sun in Texas. We should be using it to create more of our power, and more jobs. Were Texas to offer a state solar tax credit - as many other states with far less solar potential currently do - it would boost our energy production, increase an already-rapid rate of job creation in the solar power industry, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels for energy production.
Individuals and communities should have the right to decide how their own natural resources should be used, or whether they should be left entirely alone. When Denton democratically opted to limit fracking within their city limits, Governor Abbot enacted a law preventing this and any future similar local ordinances. Businesses and lawmakers contend that it is too difficult for businesses to navigate a “patchwork of local ordinances,” but I disagree: navigating local ordinances is, and should be, a required component of doing business. (Sources listed below.)
Speaking in terms of economics alone, undocumented immigrants would not be coming to supply their labor if Texan employers were not demanding it, and yet no politician has ever proposed targeting the cause of undocumented workers - jobs to be had - and only propose targeting the effect - the workers themselves. Even the most conservative of economists will readily admit that undocumented workers are necessary to the Texas economy, that there is no support for the belief that they are taking jobs that American citizens want, and that they are not coming to Texas for handouts - they’re coming for jobs. Undocumented labor is building all the development our state is seeing. Our employers need their work. It’s time to admit that we need the labor that they’re supplying, and to track on the books so that we can better assess what they contribute to the State of Texas.
Undocumented workers are simply responding to economic forces. There’s a high demand in Texas for low-cost undocumented labor - the agricultural, construction, hospitality and janitorial industries rely on it. Texas’ economy needs their labor, and their expenses. Arizona cracked down on undocumented labor in 2007 via a similar “show your papers” law as our Texas Legislature has just implemented, and their economy shrank by 2%.
They’re not taking jobs citizens want, or could fill in the volume employers demand. Multiple studies have found no connection between levels of undocumented labor and the ability of citizens to obtain employment, because the consensus is that they’re not competing for the same jobs. Undocumented laborers are mainly competing for jobs with other undocumented laborers. Citizens specialize in jobs where their ability to speak and understand English is a valuable asset, while undocumented laborers specialize in jobs where language isn’t as necessary. Studies have even found that the presence of the undocumented increases the average wage for citizens.
They aren’t coming for handouts. As the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s study says, “The fact that Texas retains such a high immigrant population despite having generally less generous welfare programs than other states would seem to imply that the primary motivation for immigrants, both legal and unauthorized, is not simply to take advantage of government handouts, but rather to work and raise their families in an environment that allows them the opportunity to prosper.”
The right solution is to document via a guest worker program those that are currently undocumented, and protect them from the exploitation by employers. If their presence here is inevitable, and their contributions are necessary, why punish them for the market forces that are pulling them here? (Sources listed below.)