State Sen. Wendy Davis announced several education proposals Thursday aimed at recruiting new public school teachers in Texas, including guaranteeing admission to state universities for top students who want to teach, raising teacher pay and offering student loan forgiveness.
The Democratic front-runner for governor didn't say how much her ideas would cost. She said she intended to use "existing state resources" and would not seek a tax increase.
"I do believe that education must be the No. 1 priority that we address as a state," Davis said at a roundtable at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Davis said high school students in the top 20 percent of their classes should be guaranteed admission to the University of Texas at Austin or other state institutions and a job teaching in a state school after graduation.
She said the state should forgive one year of student loan debt for every teacher who works two years in a qualifying school, and that loan forgiveness should be available to potential teachers in all fields of study.
Davis said Texas teachers were underpaid and decried stories of some teachers working a second or third job to make ends meet, saying they "simply aren't earning enough." According to the National Education Association, the national teachers' union, starting Texas teachers were paid about $1,000 less than the national average during the 2011-12 academic year.
She also wants to boost the number of teacher's aides and school counselors in the state.
Davis says she'll be releasing more parts of her education policy proposals in coming weeks.
Education is expected to be one of the top issues in this year's campaign between Davis and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican front-runner for governor.
In an email Thursday, Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch called Davis' proposals "fuzzy math -- a plan that will increase spending and impose more mandates on Texas universities without explaining how to pay for it."
UTA political science professor Allan Saxe says more money would likely help Texas attract and retain teachers, but he believes students need to take more responsibility for their education.
"It's a social question," said Saxe. "We need good students as well as good teachers."
Two years before her 11-hour filibuster of an anti-abortion measure brought her national attention, Davis staged a filibuster in 2011 over the Republican-controlled Legislature $5 billion cuts to school funding. Much of the money cut then was restored during last year's legislative session.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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