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Huffines expresses regret over tone of school choice exchange with student

State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, is expressing regret over a heated exchange he had Monday with a student about school choice.

Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, speaking at the Texas Tribune event, Dallas & the Legislature: A Preview of the 85th. Feb 24, 2017.

State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, is expressing regret over his tone during a heated exchange he had Monday with a student about school choice. 

"While the policy was right, Senator Huffines’ tone and delivery today did not live up to the level of civil discourse that he always expects of himself and others," Huffines spokesman Matt Langston said in a statement.

Hours earlier, video surfaced showing Huffines sparring with the student, who was apparently visiting the Capitol with a group from Richardson ISD. In the video, the student argued against a proposed stipend to send students to private schools, saying it was not enough money for low-income families to be able to enroll their children. 

"Do you want me to give them $15,000? Is that what you want? So they can all go to Hockaday, so they can all go to St. Mark's?" Huffines asked, referring to two expensive private schools in Dallas. "You want to give them a full tuition? That is the most selfish thing I've ever heard."

In the statement, Langston went on to call Huffines "unapologetic in his support for education choice, because it's a policy that supports students."

"He will not hide from passionate or heated debate on the issue," the statement said. "Where other politicians might have run, Don Huffines stayed and endured the ambush-style attack, then calmly answered more questions for 15 more minutes, including questions from students."

Democrats pounced on the videotaped exchange, which comes as they sharpen their focus on Huffines' seat in 2018.

“The job of a Texas legislator is to guarantee a free public school system so that every child can reach their God-given potential. It is a constitutional obligation they all swore to uphold," read a statement from Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. "Nowhere in the job description of a Texas Senator does it say to be disrespectful and rude to Texas students and their concerned parents who are demanding their a fair shot to get ahead,"

Huffines even took a jab from a fellow Dallas Republican after the incident: state Rep. Jason Villalba, who has previously clashed with the senator over politics and policy.

"Is it time for new leadership in #SD16?" Villalba tweeted. "I am a little tired of hearing how my own state Senator is incapable of almost every duty he has."

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