LA JOYA, Texas – State Rep. Oscar Longoria of La Joya has responded to criticism from a local teachers group about his votes this legislative session.
The La Joya chapter of the American Federation of Teachers went public with their disappointment in the hopes that the lawmaker would not support a school vouchers bill. The bill could be heard on the House floor as early as today.
Longoria gave his response in an audio interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International New Service from the state Capitol.
“I represent a diverse district, all the way from Sullivan City to Brownsville. So I try to take my votes based on what makes the most sense for the district and what is sound policy,” Longoria said.
Here is the interview:
Brenda Salinas, president La Joya AFT, explained why her group is upset with Longoria.
“Earlier this year, La Joya ISD nearly closed two elementary schools. The reasoning: Our district has lost an estimated $79,880,680 to the expansion of for-profit charter schools in our area in just the past few years,” Salinas said.
“We saved those school employee jobs because the community spoke out. Where was Rep. Longoria, who represents those employees and their families? He was in Austin, voting against this community again and again.”
Salinas said Longoria voted for a bill that would “make it easier for charter schools to move into our community and defund our neighborhood public schools.” She said he also voted “against giving more of our retired educators a pension raise.” And, she said, he voted for “a book-banning bill.”
Salinas added: “Rep. Longoria has assured us he supports public education, but his votes this session don’t show that. He is not advocating for raises for educators struggling with inflation, and he is not fighting for the public schools our students deserve. If he votes for school vouchers, we’ll fear he’s abandoned us completely.”
In a one-page talking points memo, La Joya AFT said Longoria has “spent much of the 88th Legislative Session voting like a Republican, often out of step with the rest of the Valley delegation.” If House (Republican) leadership needs a Democratic vote, “they can reliably find it in Rep. Longoria,” the teachers group said.
Here are the La Joya AFT talking points:
- Supported HB 900 the book ban bill. Longoria was a joint author and voted for the bill both in committee and on the floor. Of the South Texas Democrats, only Raymond and Munoz Jr. voted with him.
- Supported HB 2127, the egregious local preemption bill. Longoria was a coauthor and voted for the bill on the floor. He also voted against amendments on second chance hiring, anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination, migrant labor housing protections, wage theft, discrimination against veterans, and discrimination based on English fluency, among others. Cities and counties across South Texas vehemently oppose this bill.
- Supported HB 2890, which raises the threshold for SBOE (State Board of Education) to vote to reject a charter school. Voted for the bill in committee.
- Supported HB 1605, an instructional materials vendor bill, in committee, before the addition of floor amendments that addressed concerns with the bill.
- Voted against amendment to HB 9, a priority broadband bill, which would have established stronger reporting requirements for anyone who received state money from the fund. He was the only Democrat to vote against another Dem amendment that would have required the state to produce a report on the number of customers served by the fund, the internet speed provided, and locations served.
- Was one of two Democrats to vote against expanding a retiree cost of living adjustment in SB 10 to those teachers who retired during the pandemic in 2021. SB 10 cuts off eligibility at retirement in 2020. Even Republican Ryan Guillen voted for the amendment (via statement of vote).
“Longoria’s behavior has become so noticeable that one of his Democratic colleagues referenced it on the floor during the traditional banter when a freshman colleague lays out their first bill,” La Joya AFT stated.
“A committee vote on dangerous voucher legislation is expected in House Public Education next week. Longoria will be a determining factor in whether Abbott, Patrick, and voucher advocates have the votes. Will Longoria stick with his party and rural Republicans or sell out his public schools for a haircut on his kids’ private school tuition?”
Responding to criticism of his vote on HB 900, Longoria said:
“HB 900 is the book ban bill, or whatever they call it. But basically was the bill outlining what books could or could not be in public school libraries. Some of the books that were presented, especially some of those books were found in my district, and certain schools that encompass District 35, were sexually explicit materials. So what the bill does is basically put a standard where the vendors have to sort through the books and anything that would be deemed sexually inappropriate would have to be removed from the shelves. We’re not saying that these books can’t be sold or that there can’t be access through a public library outside of the school. But, we’re saying some of those books are not going to be in school libraries, and some of the stuff was pretty graphic, graphic novels, rape, incest, you know, stuff of that nature. And, I mean, it was one of those where I need to be honest with you, I don’t think some of those books should be in our school libraries.”
Longoria also responded to criticism of his voted on HB 2890.
“HB 2890… raises the threshold for SBOE to reject a charter school. Basically what that boils down to… is whenever a charter school kind of goes through the process, they get properly vetted has to go through TEA and it basically, you know, raises the threshold for them rejecting them at the SBOE level, right, because they have kind of already kind of done all their protocol. And I think folks need to realize like their charter schools, but their public charter schools. I get it where there are folks that go, a charter school is bad, but in all actuality, the charter school is just a modified version of a public school because it’s a public charter school. So that’s regarding that.”
Longoria also responded to criticism of his vote on HB 1605.
“It’s basically allowing school districts to opt into, like, a standardized curriculum… which would make it easier because we’ve noticed that within the past few years, when teachers get hired, the biggest issue that especially new teachers encounter is that they don’t have, curriculum to work from. What this does is allows good, competent, workbooks for those teachers to be able to work at. Now, it’s not mandatory, it’s optional, but it does afford the school have the option of doing that and you can kind of standardize a curriculum amongst the schools.” Longoria said teachers are spending a lot of time developing their lesson plans. “We thought it would be of benefit.”
Longoria also responded to criticism of his vote on HB 9, otherwise known as the broadband bill.
“HB 9… I supported the bill. You have kind of been working with the bill author and the bill author would say, can you please vote with me and stay in line with the bill, because people will start tacking on amendments and the amendments may have some indirect or direct negative ramifications in the backend that weren’t foreseen by the bill author.”
Longoria said it is really hard when amendments are offered up that the bill author does not support.
“So this was one where I’m pretty sure I voted with the bill author because it was a good bill. And if people are tacking on amendments on the floor, it’s very hard to be able to differentiate and the bill author is saying, please stick with me if you support the bill. We tend to vote with the bill author.”
Longoria also rejected criticism about his vote on SB 10.
“I’m actually on the conference committee to negotiate the Teacher Retirement and to the increase of that. I guess they’re complaining because of (my vote on) an amendment, but it was one of those where I probably stuck with the author because you can’t amend a bill like that where they’ve already allocated the amount of money they are going to spend on something and now someone is trying to add a modification or an amendment to the bill that can significantly increase that and put a risk on the bill where it may not even pass.”
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