Abbott, Davis dish on schools with Texas educators

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DALLAS (AP) — Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis presented starkly different views of the state of Texas schools during speeches Friday at the joint convention of the Texas Association of School Boards and Texas Association of School Administrators.

The Republican and Democratic nominees for governor were the keynote speakers of a three-day convention at the Dallas Convention Center.

Davis, a state senator, criticized Abbott, the Texas attorney general, for defending the Texas Legislature's $5.4 billion education cuts in the 2011 legislative session. Davis filibustered the budget bill.

"Cuts to our school aren't liberal or conservative; they're just plain dumb," Davis said Friday, also railing against "giant testing companies" and schools that have become "test-taking factories."

Davis has sponsored legislation to reduce the number of standardized tests for Texas high school students and restore about $3.4 billion to the state budget for education. On Friday she pledged universal pre-K and college loan forgiveness for graduating students who become teachers.

By contrast, Abbott promised more resources for pre-K education, offering $1,500 per student to schools that adopt his proposed "gold standards."

"Texas is number one for so many different things. I think the time has come for another No. 1 ranking: Texas should be No. 1 in the nation for educating our children," he said.

His plan also includes expanding partnerships between public schools and technology-sector employers and offering scholarships and stipends for teachers to attend continuing-education courses.

Abbott's office is defending the state in a lawsuit brought by more than two-thirds of its school districts last year as a result of the reduced education budget in 2011. On Friday, his office formally notified the Texas Supreme Court that it's appealing a ruling that the state's school finance system is unconstitutional.

The budget in Texas is already stretched by rapidly increasing health care and education costs, according to a third-quarter 2014 report by the Dallas Fed.

The state has some of the lowest per student spending in the nation, the report said.

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