By: Chuck Lindell

Seeing education as a defining issue in the Nov. 6 election, two Democratic candidates for statewide office stood in the hot sun Thursday afternoon in Austin to accept the endorsement of a pro-public-schools political action committee.

Texas Parent PAC threw its support behind lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier and attorney general candidate Justin Nelson, saying their policies and funding priorities have the best chance of creating “top-notch” public schools across Texas.

Just as important, Collier and Nelson are opposing two Republicans — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton — who promote policies harmful to public schools, including efforts to direct public education money to private schools via vouchers and similar initiatives, Parent PAC board member Dinah Miller said.

“Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton are bullies and ideologues who cannot be trusted to protect and strengthen our neighborhood public schools,” Miller said at a sidewalk news conference outside of Pease Elementary School in downtown Austin. “Our state needs and deserves better leaders.”

Patrick, she said, misled voters by saying he supported a $10,000 raise for teachers but offered no state funding to pay for the increase, while Paxton was criticized for opposing get-out-the-vote efforts by public school officials as a potential violation of a state law that prohibits using public education money for partisan purposes.

Formed in 2005, Parent PAC typically concentrates on races for the Legislature — the group has endorsed 54 candidates for the Texas House and Senate, including 32 Democrats, 21 Republicans and one independent — but decided to delve into statewide races for the first time in an attempt to unseat Patrick and Paxton, Miller said.

“Since he has been lieutenant governor, he has fully funded education, including covering enrollment growth,” Blakemore said, adding that Patrick successfully persuaded the Teacher Retirement System to keep insurance premiums unchanged.

Accepting the group’s endorsement Thursday, Collier called Patrick “public enemy No. 1 when it comes to public education. He is openly hostile to public education.”

“We’ve got to properly fund public education. I’m anti-vouchers, as is most of the state,” Collier said, adding that he hopes to restore benefits for retired teachers, increase pay for current teachers, expand pre-kindergarten and ensure smaller class sizes.

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