Texas’ Wendy Davis champions education

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Aaron Montes / The Prospector

Michelle Butcher a biochemistry student at El Paso Community College shows Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis the series of experiments she and her colleagues have done on the influence fungus can have on maximizing a seedlings growth. "For one, it was to start a lunar colony because they wanted to see what plant could withstand the harsh environment on the moon. The fungus that does tend to help the most is Penicillium."

Aaron Montes, Photographer

The Transmountain campus of  El Paso Community College hosted Texas state senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis,D-Fort Worth, on the first stop in her two-day visit to El Paso.

Sen. Davis said education is her number one priority, adding that education had pulled her from poverty to being a candidate for the governor of Texas.

“I am thrilled to be running for governor, one of my priorities is to ensure we are supporting our community college system,” she said. “I am running because I believe in the promise of Texas, which is delivered most profoundly through our support for public and higher education.”

The community college system in El Paso has seen drop in enrollment and is considered one of the biggest declines in Texas. Fall enrollment at EPCC fell by more than 1,600 students and within the state, only Texas Southmost College had a bigger decline. The college is currently is separating itself from the University of Texas at Brownsville.

Budget cuts for the biennium period in Texas include the $5.4 billion, which were cut by the dominant Republican majority during the 82nd state Legislature. Cuts greatly impacted the opportunities students had in the past to go to college, including the Texas Grant. The cuts in the grant, as Davis said, simply could not cover the gap for tuition. The reason for the cuts was the structural problem in which property taxes were reduced by one third in 2006.

Sen. Davis spoke about providing for public education and the lack of a response from the Texas Legislature. Davis also talked about Dr. James R. Vasquez, executive director of the Education Service Center in Region 19; who was involved in the Edgewood v. Kirby case. Vasquez and the Edgewood Independent School District were involved in what is considered a landmark case because local government could not support its public school districts that were traditionally populated by Mexican-American students. Socorro Independent School District and San Elizario were appellants in the case and benefited from the verdict.

“I think Senator’s Davis’ vision is what we have been looking for,” Vasquez said. “That’s what’s going to save education, if we go back on the road on improving it, it will be not with our words, but with our resources.”

Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, District 29, said he was glad to have a colleague who gives priority to education as he does. He said through education, problems such as poverty, low wages and health care access could be solved. Rodriguez disagrees with the current leadership’s comments that the state is doing enough in education.

“We coincide in our views as education as the number one priority,” he said. “Importantly, what she said here and what I have been saying for a long time is the state needs to invest a lot more than what it’s doing in education.”

Davis said that too many potential students in Texas are not getting the support they need in the public and higher education system, and if they are not taken care of, the economy will experience further setbacks.

“Today we are experiencing challenges, “ she said. “No longer is there the same state support as there once was.”

Sen. Davis said she was happy to be on the campus in the presence of “Dreamers”–unauthorized youth who were brought to the United States as children and eligible for the Obama Administration’s deferred action initiative–because she can let them know that she supported comprehensive immigration reform. She said she saw appeal attempts during the past two legislative sessions against the Dream Act, adding she would like to maintain the Dream Act in place.

“I want to make sure that families are no longer torn apart,” she said. “Also, to see people who dream of becoming a citizen of the United States and who are willing to come here and work hard and have the opportunity to do so.”

Sen. Davis will be visiting the Veterans Transitional Living Center, Friday Nov. 1 at 5 p.m. at 9050 Viscount.