Republicans and Democrats are pursuing Latino voters in Texas, but perhaps one of the most vivid illustrations of their different approaches is the way members of each party are creating education policy.
The majority of Texas students are Latino, the future of the state depends on Latinos, and yet Republicans in the state veered toward Arizona-style educational laws earlier this year. About the same time, Democrat and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro — who has made education a priority in his city on several occasions — was re-elected to his third term as mayor earlier this month.
For Castro, education is not just important — it’s fundamental. “I see it as the legacy of a city that will be the most prosperous brainpower city in the nation,” he told Politic365.
The contrasts between Republicans and Democrats on education in Texas are pretty stark.
Republican Texas State Senator Dan Patrick authored Senate Bill 1128 and a Republican state rep, Giovanni Capriglione, brought House Bill 1938, both of which took aim at ethnic studies history courses at the college level. Neither of the bills made it to the floor, after much hullabaloo made of how they were a threat to Latinos in the state, but what they did manage to accomplish was a pretty stark outline of the Republican educational agenda for Latino students.
Mind you, this comes just a couple of years after the Republican-controlled legislature made more than $5 billion dollars to education. So, taken in context, cutting education funding, then proposing to limit educational courses, seems to put the Republican party squarely in the anti-education camp.
When you compare those actions to the types of achievements Castro likes to highlight when talking about his city, an entirely different philosophy emerges. (Incidentally, Castro’s twin brother and current U.S. Representative Joaquín Castro was a strong education advocate when he served in the state house.)
In 2010 Café College opened; the project is funded in part by the city to help prepare students for college by providing guidance and other resources. Then in November, Castro’s Pre-K SA initiative to offer pre-kindergarten to San Antonio children was approved by voters; the sales tax initiative was aimed at offering many more children in the city access to pre-k classes, which have proven to be effective in boosting educational attainment.
Castro told us that education wasn’t just about politics for him, but rather, economics.
“The communities that have a highly educated workforce will be the ones that thrive in the 21st century global economy. I will do everything I can to raise San Antonio’s educational attainment, during and after my tenure as Mayor,” he told Politic365.
“You can’t be pro-business without being pro-education.”
Patricia D. Lopez, a post doctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin Texas Center for Educational Policy, characterizes Castro as a “trailblazer” when it comes to his educational efforts.
“What stands out is that he’s not just telling his community that they can and deserve to achieve their dreams similar to the ways that he has — but he is literally investing in an entire infrastructure around that message. That is not only impactful, but it’s also sustainable,” she said.
Castro hopes to run for another term as mayor when his current term expires, so his educational policies will have more time to play out. But he told Politic365 that Battleground Texas and other groups are starting an important conversation with voters about the Democratic Party.
“Texas will be a competitive state in the not-so-distant future,” he said, especially because, “You can’t get somebody’s support unless you ask.”
With groups like Battleground Texas organizing in Texas to turn the state blue by focusing in large part on Latino voters, plus the efforts of star politicos like Castro, it stands to reason that Democratic efforts on education will be a big part of Democratic messaging to Latino voters.