HARLINGEN, Texas – State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., has made light of endorsements his political opponent has received from the world of education.

Ruben Cortez, one of two challengers to Lucio in the Senate District 27 Democratic Party primary, is being backed by the Texas American Federation of Teachers and the Texas Valley Educators’ Association.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.

“I don’t think these endorsements represent the true support I have from teachers,” Lucio told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“The teachers know me, the counselors know me, everyone in education knows me. They know what I have done for them.”

Lucio, D-Brownsville, is a former teacher and currently vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Education.

Lucio pointed out that teachers got a pay raise during the last legislative session. He said the session was notable for the amount of money infused into public education.

“Salaries for the teaching profession have not been good enough. That is why we gave teachers a pay raise. We need to maintain out teachers. There are some incredible teachers out there. We need to make sure they are paid what they are worth.”

Asked about the endorsements Cortez has received from various teacher unions, Lucio said: “The politicians at the top will make a decision based on who wines and dines them the more. I was working in Austin while all that was going on in the Valley.”

Texas AFT has endorsed Ruben Cortez for state Senate District 27, which covers much of the lower Rio Grande Valley, for the Democratic Primary on March 3. Four local Texas AFT groups also have endorsed Cortez.

Cortez is a current member of the State Board of Education and a former Brownsville School Board member. On his website, Cortez says he is “the foremost public education leader in South Texas.”

Zeph Capo, Texas AFT president, pointed out that four local Texas AFT groups have endorsed Cortez – Brownsville, La Joya, McAllen, and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo.

Ruben Cortez

“Cortez has a solid grasp of the challenges facing public education and has shown he is ready to meet those challenges head-on,” Capo said.

“Cortez also is fully aware of the dangers of privatization of our schools and in particular the harmful impacts we face from rapid charter-school expansion.”

A TAFT news release said Cortez has consistently questioned “the lax approval process for charters at the SBOE while fighting to provide more resources for our schoolchildren.”

“And he led the charge for our state to finally adopt a Mexican-American Studies curriculum for our high schools,” the news release stated.

Capto added that Lucio has “developed a pattern of consistently supporting legislation favorable to charter schools and has supported efforts to establish private-school vouchers.”

Sylvia Tanguma, president of McAllen AFT, said a change of leadership is needed in the Valley.

“We deserve someone whose actions go beyond mere rhetoric in support for public schools,” Tanguma said. “The Valley deserves someone who takes action to defeat private-school vouchers and harmful charter-school expansion as well as someone who fights to ensure our students see themselves in their curriculum.”

Sara Stapleton Barrera

The Texas Valley Educators’ Association launched in March 2013 and has 1,600 members.

Other education groups to endorse Cortez include the Texas State Teachers Association and Texas Parent PAC.

The other Democratic Party candidate in the Senate District 27 race is Sara Stapleton Barrera, an attorney and human rights and Women’s rights advocate.

“The people of District 27 deserve better representation in the Senate in Austin,” Stapleton Barrera said. “Someone needs to be there for all the people and lead on important issues like climate change, education, water quality and healthcare. A fresh voice like mine is needed.”