State Sen. José Rodríguez: ‘Education is the Highest Priority’

By David Brown, Rhonda Fanning and Sarah TalaatSeptember 22, 2014 3:15 pm|

Even after a weekend full of panels and discussion of Texas politics and policy at The Texas Tribune Festival, many political wonks are looking to the main event: January’s new legilative session.

State Senator José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, sat down with Texas Standard host David Brown during the festival to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda, the state’s budget surplus, the upcoming election for governor and more.

On the leadership’s legislative agenda:

“For the leadership, as always, [the focus is] passing the budget, which is the one constitutional requirement that we have. There’s going to be plenty of money. There’s not going to be any no excuse for not investing in the critical issues that I think we confront as a state in education. A judge told us yet again that the school finance system is unconstitutional and we need to fix it.”

On the senator’s legislative agenda:

“Especially coming from my point of view, coming from El Paso, with regard to low-income and the bilingual education programs and more need for certified bilingual teachers – all of those things are important if this state is going to progress in the future. … Steve Murdock has told us for so many years as a demographer that the fastest-growing youngest population is along the boarder its Latinos. And they need to educated otherwise [we’re] not going to have a future labor force that can help us compete in the global economy.”

On the budget surplus and improvements to infrastructure: 

“Infrastructure is also high on the agenda for the leadership…. I’m a strong advocate for the proposition that will be coming up in November for taking money out or transportation, for roads – Proposition 1. That is only close to $1.5 billion that we’re talking about. The estimates of how much it takes to maintain our current system – not new roads, not new bridges or other infrastructure – is five to six billion. So clearly that fund is going to be a drop in the bucket.”

On Wendy Davis’ chances of winning the election:

“The numbers of registered voters in the Latino community, the African-American community, women – who now comprise, in El Paso, over 50 percent of the registered voters – they have a high stake in this particular race involving women’s health programs and other women’s issues like equal pay. If those voters come out to vote, there’s no question she wins, hands-down.”