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Wendy Davis On Education: 'We Texans Have A Different Way Of Doing Things'

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WENDY DAVIS
Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis makes an election day visit to her campaign phone bank at Wendy Davis campaign headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images) | Fort Worth Star-Telegram via Getty Images

AUSTIN, Texas -- Fresh from winning the Democratic nomination in the Texas governor's race, state Sen. Wendy Davis outlined her education platform at the SXSWedu conference on Wednesday, drawing a stark contrast with her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott.

"I've laid out a detailed platform … I've been talking about it already to a great extent," Davis told reporters. "Greg Abbott in contrast to that is still defending indefensible cuts to our public school system. With his words he says that education is a priority, but with his actions he shows that it's not." Abbott's campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

Davis on Tuesday trounced Reynaldo Madrigal by 60 percentage points in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, becoming the first female nominee since the 1990s. Abbott sailed to victory in the GOP primary.

Following a speech at SXSWedu Wednesday in which she attacked the state's massive education cuts and class size increases. Davis promised to fight for Texas children like she did when she filibustered $5 billion in education cuts in 2011. She said those cuts, combined with high expectations for teachers, led to 11,000 lost teaching positions through layoffs and attrition.

Texas is one of just four states not implementing Common Core State Standards, a set of learning standards shared by most states that aim to deepen learning in English language arts and math to better prepare students for a global economy. Texas resisted the effort in part because of the initiative's ties to the federal government.

In a response to a question from The Huffington Post, Davis said she stands by her state's decision to shun the Common Core, suggesting she wouldn't seek change if elected.

"Texas has always embarked on its own journey in terms of what we think is right for us," Davis said. "And I don't necessarily think that that's a bad idea.

"Are there some good things to learn from those core standards? Of course," Davis said. "Should we be monitoring our students and making sure that each of them is individually progressing in a way that makes us feel proud and that is providing them the kind of educational experience they need? Yes. But I'm a Texan, and I do think that we Texans have a different way of doing things that sometimes is doing better than what we might see on the national stage."

Davis criticized the state's deregulation of tuition for state colleges and universities, saying "it's time to revisit that conversation and talk about how we can be a better partner … taking away hopefully some of the crushing student debt."

She also criticized standardized testing, saying she would seek to reduce the number of achievement tests students must take. Testing, she said, should be used to assess strengths and weaknesses, and should complement a resource-rich education system.

Davis reiterated her education platform. One piece, called "Great Pathways: Great Texas," would seek to double the number of early college high school campuses, double high school students' total college credit hours annually; and create a grant program to offset early college credit options, according to her campaign litterature.

Another piece, called "Great Start: Great Texas" would build initiatives such as San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro's (D) preschool expansion plan to "ensure that every eligible Texas child has access to quality, full-day Pre-K" and promote early reading so that all students read at grade level by third grade.

Another piece, called "Great Teachers: Great Texas" would focus on teacher quality by expanding loan repayment options, making it easier for teacher aides to get back to school and increasing teacher pay to attract and retain "highly-qualified teachers."

The fourth and final piece, Davis told reporters, is forthcoming.

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