Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis on Monday accused Republican opponent Greg Abbott of proposing increased testing and denying equal access to pre-kindergarten education.
“We cannot afford another political insider like Greg Abbott,” Davis told supporters at the Texas State Teachers Association in Austin. She said Abbott "believes it’s a good idea to impose outdated, backward-thinking standardized tests onto 4-year-olds so that he can pick and choose which of our children get a fair shot and which do not.”
Abbott, the state’s attorney general, has been under fire from Democrats and education advocates for language in a policy proposal that appears to call for the biannual testing of pre-kindergarten students. Although Abbott’s campaign said last week that his plan does not call for such tests, Davis hasn't let up on the attacks.
Appearing with several Democratic lawmakers — state Rep. Donna Howard of Austin and state Sens. José Rodríguez of El Paso and Kirk Watson of Austin — Davis framed her criticism of Abbott in the context of recent legislation that drops the number of required state standardized tests for high school students, and said his proposal would deny pre-K education to many students.
“Under that plan, only some children would get a chance,” Davis said. “Other children in the state would simply lose out.”
The Republican's campaign has said his proposal would not require those tests. “Greg Abbott’s plan does not impose standardized testing, and it removes the mandates from Austin and gives genuine local control and flexibility to school districts,” Matt Hirsch, a spokesman for Abbott, said in a statement. Hirsch told The Texas Tribune last week that assessment methods mentioned in the attorney general’s plan were “there for informational purposes only.”
In the past, Davis has also criticized Abbott for defending — in his role as the state's lawyer — $5.4 billion in cuts lawmakers made to public education in 2011, including $200 million for pre-K programs.
Davis, who has attempted to make her support of education a key factor in the governor’s race, discussed her proposal to increase access to full-day pre-K programs. Her plan would restore the 2011 education cuts, add full-day pre-K and step up recruitment of quality teachers. Abbott has criticized her for not putting a price tag on the proposal.
Davis previously unveiled other education ideas, including a proposal to increase the number of teachers in Texas and a proposal to make college more accessible through early college high schools and dual credit programs.