HARLINGEN, Texas – Raise Your Hand Texas held a forum in Harlingen recently for the candidates running for Texas Senate District 27 and Texas House District 37.

The forum was streamed live on Facebook.

Morgan LaMantia, the Democratic candidate for SD 27, and Luis Villarreal, the Democratic candidate for HD 37, participated. Their Republican opponents did not attend the forum, preferring instead to attend an event with Gov. Greg Abbott in Brownsville. 

The moderator was Rio Grande Guardian editor Steve Taylor.

About Raise Your Hand Texas

Raise Your Hand Texas is a non-profit group that supports public education in Texas. The About Us section of the group’s website states:

Raise The future of Texas – our economy, communities, and citizenry – depends on how well we prepare our students today. All students deserve a level playing field and equal access to a quality public education. We believe our public schools represent our greatest hope for educating and preparing all 5+ million Texas students for the future.

That is why Raise Your Hand Texas supports public policy solutions that invest in our students, encourage innovation and autonomy, and improve college and workforce readiness.

You wouldn’t know it by some narratives, but public schools are performing better than they have since student performance first started being tracked. Students are achieving higher results in reading and math than they have in decades. More students are graduating from high school. Parent satisfaction with their local schools remains high, despite low perceptions of public education across the country. School districts across Texas are expanding choice and innovation in campuses and courses to ensure students leave high school college- and career-ready.

Texas educators are making admirable strides in the face of lackluster school funding, increased expectations and classroom mandates, a constantly shifting accountability landscape, and student population growth – especially those living in poverty or still learning English.

And Yet, The Status Quo is Not Good Enough – We Can Do Better

The Texas identity has always been defined by lofty ideals and a never-ending pursuit of greater opportunity and prosperity for our citizens. While American schools have made incremental improvements in student achievement over the last few decades, other countries have experienced exponential gains. For too long, Texas and the United States have languished in the middle of the rankings. This has very real implications for our students’ individual and collective potential, our state’s business economy, and our global competitiveness.

Texas’ economic future will be determined by the success of our public schools. For this reason, Texas citizens and the officials they elect should support the public school system and its capacity for progress and reinvention.

Issues of concern to Raise Your Hand Texas

Among the questions asked of the candidates at the forum was one about updating the state’s parental bill of rights. The candidates were asked what obstacles schools face in attracting and retaining teachers. They were also asked whether or not the Legislature should focus on teacher salary and benefits issues next session. 

There was also a question on whether there should be taxpayer-funded government subsidies for private schools and vendors. And another question focused on school vouchers. 

The candidates were also asked about how schools are sending their federal stimulus funds. Another question focused on how schools are addressing the learning loss caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

It was also put to the candidates that the state will potentially have a budget surplus of $27 billion and another $13 billion available in the state’s Rainy-Day Fund going into the next legislative session. As Texas continues to be about $4,000 below the national average in per student spending, candidates were asked what their funding priorities are for public education next session.

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