April 12, 2023 706 PM
FORT DAVIS — The Jeff Davis County Democrats will host Larry John Porras, regional advocacy director with Raise Your Hand Texas, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that supports public education in Texas, for an education legislation update this Saturday, April 15, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Cueva de Leon in Fort Davis.
Porras, who is originally from Valentine, will give legislative updates on a broad range of education issues, including school vouchers — a controversial law that would see public school dollars flowing into private schools that passed the Senate last week — the school assessment system, teacher retention, raising of basic allotment funding per pupil and more.
“We will be covering school vouchers, the accountability system and some of the stuff that I feel that really resonates more with how Fort Davis ISD, Marfa ISD, the whole tri-county area is going to be affected [by new legislation],” said Porras.
Genie Mitchell, chair of the Education Action Committee for the newly-reinvigorated Jeff Davis County Democrats, said the entity has been getting reorganized as of late, publishing a new website and rallying around the formation of three action committees of education, immigration, and voter rights.
Mitchell said considering Fort Davis ISD’s struggles with funding — Superintendent Graydon Hicks has spoken publicly, including in a letter to the editor in this newspaper, about how the district could go bankrupt soon without more state funding — and the role of the district as an primary local employer, it is important for citizens to care and invest in public education issues.
“[Porras] is going to speak about the importance of advocacy in West Texas rural communities in order to champion our public schools, teachers and students. Our Texas public schools have suffered from lack of adequate funding for over 25 years,” said Mitchell.
“We would love to bring back programs in music, band, arts, drama and civics that add value to students’ educational experience,” she continued.
Porras said that among its issues, Raise Your Hand Texas is advocating against school vouchers, and for greater per pupil allotments for school funding as well as a more comprehensive school accountability rating system. As it stands, Texas schools are severely underfunded and facing harmful threats like school vouchers, which would negatively impact rural schools as well, said Porras.
“This is about getting people to realize the value of advocacy in general, but specifically public education advocacy, because this is preparing our students for the future,” said Porras. “I’m one of those small town kids and every single student needs that support.”
Mitchell said the Jeff Davis County Democrats are hopeful the event will draw a crowd from around the tri-county area. Moving forward the organization hopes to connect locals with opportunities to make their voices heard by learning more about how to contact their representatives and track issues that matter to them.
“Because [we’re] out here in the middle of nowhere, I think a lot of representatives do not realize some of the issues we have as being small communities so far located so far from services,” said Mitchell.
Porras, who represents West Texas from El Paso to Bracketville for his organization, said he is looking forward to fostering partnerships with local districts in the tri-county area, representing their concerns on the state level, and being back in the area he grew up in for Saturday’s talk.
“Just the fact that the event is going to be Cueva de Leon — I haven’t eaten there since I was in high school, at a basketball tournament, so it’s going to be so surreal,” said Porras.
“We have policies like vouchers and we have regulations that are inserted that really make it difficult for small schools to really implement. It’s an honor to go back to them and get their voices, get their input and then work with the Legislature,” he added.