"We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own."
- Cesar Chavez
All Texans have the right to receive high-quality, publicly-funded education from pre-kindergarten through either college or vocational programs. High-quality public schools that meet the needs of all individuals should be accessible.
Studies show that standardized testing is an ineffective metric of both student and teacher performance, discourages higher-level critical thinking and creativity, and penalizes underserved populations. The problems associated with standardized testing are so great that the Texas Education Agency has been sued over flaws in the STAAR test, and many parents have determined that the best approach to testing is to have their children "opt-out" of the experience. Accordingly, high-stakes standardized tests should be replaced with alternative performance measures that address the strengths and weaknesses of students, educators, and institutions. Furthermore, the use of a statewide, test-based "Value Added Measure" as a teacher evaluation metric should be uniformly rejected, as such measures have been proven invalid. Students with disabilities must take assessments designated in individual education plans and no longer be subject to inappropriate testing.
The state should immediately establish a school finance system with sufficient revenue to provide every individual with accessible, high-quality education. Comprehensive reform of the Texas public school system includes not only the rejection of approaches that lead to persistent failure, but also the adoption of new strategies that improve the state of education. Institutions should be held accountable for student progress, meet established standards of educational excellence, and repeal "home rule" and "innovation" statutes that allow institutions to lower standards and simply push students through the system. Public charter schools must be held to identical standards of accountability in order to receive financial support. Above all, the $5.4 billion of public school funding that was eliminated by the Republican legislature in 2011 must be restored to fund improvements in Texas education.
-Teachers and Support Staff
The success of our children is dependent upon the success of our teachers, counselors, librarians, aides, and other support staff. Due to meager wages, deficient funding, and the increased emphasis on standardized testing, which is improperly used as a teacher performance metric and monopolizes class time, educational institutions suffer from low teacher retention rates and are often forced to staff unqualified individuals. If we wish to recruit superior, certified teachers that have the training and tools necessary to support all students throughout their educational journey, we must increase teacher pay and provide quality, affordable healthcare and retirement options.
College is not for every student. For students who do not wish to attend college, vocational education programs can provide high school students with occupational training, unrelated to traditional academic skills. Accordingly, it is imperative that every Texas school provide and fund high-quality career and technical educational programs. The implementation of hands-on training programs will prepare students for a specific career or trade. The establishment of career programs has been shown to reduce the number of students who drop out of high school and benefit at-risk students, while also providing all students with an alternative to college or university.
Individuals of all abilities are entitled to receive a high-quality education at any publicly-funded Texas educational institution. Both gifted students and those with disabilities are entitled to receive appropriate, high-quality early, secondary, and postsecondary education and access to all services and support indicated in their individual education plans. Furthermore, we believe that all institutions should provide a safe-haven for students of all abilities, and disparities in instruction or discipline based on such factors should be eliminated.
The state should not support "school choice" schemes that use public school funds to support either private or sectarian schools. Indeed, public tax money should only be used to support a system of free public schools. Furthermore, we should oppose the implementation of any school voucher or tax credit program that would financially and academically harm the Texas public school system.
Every Texan should be assured that the state has comprehensive plans for handling the occurrence and aftermath of natural and man-made disasters. Following the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, many counties in Texas were left without sufficient support. The state must develop, fund, and implement processes to ensure the welfare of Texan residents, including plans to manage emergency transportation, both the temporary and permanent housing of displaced individuals, both the short-term and long-term health care needs of displaced individuals, the educational needs of displaced students, debris and hazardous material removal, testing physical locations prior to repopulation, and securing funding to rebuild. The state must also pass legislation that will prohibit the sale of residential land located in a flood-plain without the buyer's knowledge.
Health care is a human right and every Texan should have access to high-quality, affordable health care. As a state, we must ensure that we provide comprehensive health care options to all Texans, including the most vulnerable, our children, veterans, and seniors. No individual should be denied access because of a pre-existing condition or inability to pay an exorbitant hospital bill.
Texans should support legislation that expands upon the principles of the Affordable Care Act, providing preventative and primary care treatment for medical, dental, and vision issues. We must support a system that allows Texans to choose their providers, yet replaces high insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-pays with progressive financing. We must also ensure that Texans have access to quality, affordable prescription drugs. No individual should be the victim of a corporation's desire to manipulate the cost of health care treatment.
Texans must have autonomy over their own bodies and are provided access to medically sound reproductive health services. In turn, crisis pregnancy centers that misrepresent their services should be stripped of funding and designation as a licensed medical facility. Every Texan should have the opportunity to make their own decision regarding childbirth and should have access to contraception, counseling, family planning services, pre-natal and post-natal care, affordable childcare, and abortion services.
Texas is a diverse state and we must work to eliminate the health disparities that exist amongst minority populations. In order to ensure that all Texans live long, healthy lives, we must support policy and legislation that will reduce the disparities that exist among racial, socioeconomic, and geographic lines.
In Texas, gerrymandering has compromised the ability to hold fair elections. Gerrymandering is the process where district lines are drawn in a way that provides an advantage to a single party. The result is that the party that draws the district line ends up with more elected officials than they would if the district lines were fairly drawn. In turn, politicians are choosing their voters instead of voters choosing their politicians.
A US District Court found that Texas districts are drawn with racially discriminatory intent, to minimize the power of minority populations. The Texas legislature must also establish an independent redistricting committee that will remove the redistricting process from the hands of political parties and put voters in control. An independent redistricting committee will make elections more competitive and, in turn, allow constituents to hold their elected officials accountable.
Criminal Justice Reform
We must reform the broken criminal justice system and put an end to mass incarceration. Specifically, we must end the failed "war on drugs," which disproportionately affects minority populations. We must be proactive when handling drug incidents and substance abuse cases by prioritizing prevention and treatment over prison. We must implement drug courts, veterans' courts, and diversionary programs that provide nonviolent offenders with rehabilitation opportunities, rather than mandated incarceration.
We must eliminate for-profit prisons and detention centers in the state of Texas, which have been found to be corrupt, racist, and inhumane in their treatment. By ending both the "war on drugs" and eliminating for-profit prisons and detention centers, we can end the school-to-prison pipeline by investing in jobs and education, rather than in jails and incarceration.
We must invest in educational training for officers in order to end racial profiling that targets individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. Officers must also be required to wear body cameras, taught methods of de-escalation, and trained on the appropriate use of force. All of the above will work to improve police-community relations.
In order to ensure that we pass on a viable earth to our children, we must take immediate action to stem the negative impacts of pollution, fossil fuel use, and climate change. First and foremost, we must reduce energy waste within our existing infrastructure by implementing energy-efficient alternatives, modernizing our current power systems, and investing in mass transit options across our state. We must also invest in clean energy research and development, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and providing incentives for companies and households that minimize carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. We must also ensure that our public lands and waterways are protected from pollution and fossil fuel extraction in order to maintain the unique levels of biodiversity and ensure that our natural resources are available for future generations.
Individuals should not worry whether or not they will return home safely or end up as a victim of gun violence. We can reduce the scourge of gun violence, while still allowing responsible gun owners the right to bear arms.
Texas should immediately institute universal background checks when an individual goes to purchase a gun, and close the gun-show loophole, in order to ensure that such weapons are not acquired by violent criminals, abusers, or terrorists. We must institute red-flag laws that will allow action to be taken to remove weapons from the hands of individuals who have exhibited behavior that could be dangerous to themselves or others.
Our state should eliminate campus carry, abandon the idea of arming educators, and invest more money in providing mental health services to our students in order to reduce the possibility of another school shooting. Furthermore, we must address gun violence as a public health crisis and invest in understanding the causes of, and stemming, further gun violence.
The state of Texas is great because of the contributions of immigrants. The multitude of cultural and ethnic backgrounds only contribute to the economic prosperity and richness of our state.
As a state that shares its southern border with an ally, it would be in our best interests to enact fair and equitable immigration reform. As Texans we must support a secure border that protects Texans, and Americans, from bad actors. However, we must balance that by treating immigrants humanely, considering the pleas of asylum seekers and refugees with the utmost seriousness. We must support the passage of the DREAM Act, which will allow those here under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to achieve their citizenship and their American dream.
We cannot allow the current policies of child separation, 'tender age' shelters, and a zero-tolerance approach to immigration to continue. We should not support using taxpayer money to build a border wall, which experts have stated will be ineffective. We must repeal Senate Bill 4, or the "Show Me Your Papers" law, which has simply led to an increase in xenophobic, racist, and bigoted behavior. We must value the power that is associated with the diverse skillsets of our immigrant population.
We believe that voting is a fundamental right, and all Texans must be guaranteed the right to vote and be assured that their vote counts. Texans must adopt laws to eliminate barriers to voting and ensure that all citizens have the right to cast their votes. We must adopt regulations for automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and online voter registration. Furthermore, we must repeal the restrictive Texas photo Voter ID law, which requires voters to show a government-issued photo ID and has been found to penalize minority populations. The state must also pass legislation that penalizes those found guilty of voter intimidation tactics, which includes questioning an individual's voter qualifications, falsely presenting oneself as an elections official, spreading false information regarding voter requirements, or harassing voters of color, those with disabilities, or non-English speakers.