Investments in education have always been the cornerstone of the American Dream. Texas urgently needs to increase funding for public education if we want to remain competitive in today’s economy. Unfortunately, we are moving in the wrong direction. Texas spend $428 less per high school student compared to 2008. As the husband of a high school Spanish teacher in DISD, I have personally seen how challenging the situation has become for teachers and school districts throughout the state. Every year, our teachers are asked to do more with less.
It is a similar story for college students, most of whom are now saddled with student loan debt for many years after graduation. As a result, the current generation of college students is the first in the history of the United States that is predicted to be worse off than their parents. That trend is unacceptable to me as the parent of a young child and someone who believes in the American Dream. We need to invest in public education if we want to develop an educated, talented, and diverse workforce that is attractive to innovative businesses and employers.
I am against increasing local property taxes to pay for education. I believe we should explore the following policies to either save money or generate additional revenue:
- Stop wasting money defending clearly unconstitutional laws like the same-sex marriage ban ($600,000), Texas’ 2013 abortion restrictions ($1 million), and the Voter ID law ($3.5 million).
- Pass measures to collect sales tax revenue from a greater number of online sellers. Texas is currently missing approximately $1 billion in sales revenue from uncollected online sales.
- Reducing the number of people in prison for nonviolent crimes. In Texas, we currently spend approximately $10,000 per student and $20,000 per inmate per year.
- Increase the minimum wage to generate more sales tax revenue.
- Follow the advice of Public Health Experts and invest in free long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) like IUD devices to reduce the number of teen pregnancies and abortions. A recent study by a team of economists in Colorado found that it saved the state $5.85 for every $1 invested in the program. Read more here.
Historically speaking, the American Dream has never been equally available to all Americans. People of color, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, immigrants, and women were always prevented from fully sharing in many opportunities to achieve their dreams. That is why we must be committed to inclusivity, equality, and justice in the policy decisions we make in the future.
As an attorney, I have personally advocated for victims of discrimination in employment disputes throughout the state of Texas. I strongly opposed the “bathroom bill” and other forms of discriminatory legislation advanced by the Texas Legislature. If elected, one of my goals will be to end discrimination against all Texans, including those who identify as LGBTQ. Legislation like the bathroom bill (1) is not meant to address a real problem, (2) is divisive and discriminatory, and (3) wastes taxpayer money on unnecessary litigation.
Discrimination is not only bad for our hearts and souls, it is bad for business. The Texas economy depends in large part on our ability to attract innovative new companies. Employers have made it very clear that they will locate their jobs elsewhere if Texas refuses to treat every person with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Texas has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in residents without any form of medical insurance. This problem is particularly costly to Dallas residents because a portion of our county property taxes pay for uncompensated care at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Not only would Medicaid expansion increase the number of people who can access care, it would also help reduce the county property taxes that are required for Parkland.
Read about how expansion would cover 1.5 million more Texans, add $580.5 million in annual Medicaid funds to Dallas County, and reduce our local property taxes here.
Too many Texans are struggling to make a living at $7.25/hour. Among cities larger than 1 million people, for example, Dallas currently has the third-highest child poverty rate in the country.
I support a law allowing cities and counties to decide whether to increase the minimum wage. Some may advocate for increasing the minimum wage for the entire state; however, I believe allowing local governments to vote on this issue would be preferable because (1) it would account for differences between urban, suburban, and rural economies, and (2) doing so would allow for greater local control by city governments, which is something that I believe will result in our state becoming less divided.
Our schools are funded from two main sources: state taxes and local property taxes. However, when property tax revenues increase, the percentage paid by the state for education is decreased by state budget writers. The result is a shell game – we pay more in property taxes, but the amount allocated to our schools from state taxes goes down. The best solution is to end the shell game and require a fixed percentage of funding for public education to come from the state.
We can increase public education funding in several ways. We can pass measures to collect sales tax revenue from a greater number of online sellers. We can also save money by reducing the number of people in prison for nonviolent crimes. In Texas, we currently spend approximately $10,000 per student and $20,000 per inmate per year. We also need to stop wasting money defending clearly unconstitutional laws like the same-sex marriage ban ($600,000), Texas’ 2013 abortion restrictions ($1 million), and the Voter ID law ($3.5 million). Finally, allowing cities and counties to increase the minimum wage would generate an increase in sales tax revenue because these new wages would be spent in the local economy.
I am a strong supporter of reproductive rights of all women. This includes the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy as recognized by the United States Supreme Court. It is important to me that our Legislature stop passing unconstitutional laws about abortion and other culture war issues that ultimately waste taxpayer money when they are successfully challenged in court.
The Texas Legislature needs to begin reversing the harm to our women’s health and family planning system that it has caused over the past decade. When the Legislature blocked funding from Planned Parenthood and other providers in 2011, over 80 family planning clinics were forced to close. These clinics provided contraceptive care to low-income women, which meant their closure resulted in an increase of teen abortions by 3.1% in the following three years and teen births by 3.4% in the following four years. Read more here.
I also believe we should follow the advice of Public Health Experts and invest in free long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) like IUD devices. These programs have been shown to reduce the number of teen pregnancies and abortions at a net savings to state taxpayers. A recent study by a team of economists in Colorado found that their LARC program saved the state $5.85 for every $1 spent on the program. Read more about the Colorado program here.
My opponent voted to cut funding for Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) and Medicaid reimbursement rates for therapists for disabled children by $350 million in 2015. His cuts hurt young children born with autism, speech delays, Down syndrome, and other disabilities who need these therapies to learn to walk, communicate with their families, swallow properly, and perform other basic life activities.
I support restoring ECI and Medicaid funding for these children at the earliest possible opportunity. We owe it to them and their families to see they get the care they need to live full and productive lives.
We need to make responsible reforms to the criminal justice system that are fair to the accused and good for taxpayers. That includes reforming the cash bond system, which can rip families apart and result in job loss and unemployment for many defendants. Many of the accused quickly agree to a plea because it helps them get out of jail and back to work and their kids. Unfortunately, this results in a permanent criminal record that has lasting implications for us all.
We should also listen to public health experts and learn from states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. The criminalization of marijuana has proven to be a misguided policy that has caused more harm than good. States that have legalized have seen fewer people in prison, the creation of a new industry that provides good jobs, and an increase in tax revenue that can be invested in local schools and infrastructure.
Learn more about a group of religious leaders in Texas fighting to reform the bail system here.