Lieutenant governor candidates discuss education, immigration in interviews

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The second day of the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival kicked off Saturday with one-on-one interviews with candidates for lieutenant governor, state Sens. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

The candidates touched on different issues, including education, bipartisanship, and health care at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. They spoke for 30 minutes each, separately from one another.

Patrick said he supports the voucher system and explained his reasoning for wanting students to leave schools if they felt the need to get a better-quality education elsewhere.

“No child should be forced to go to a failing school,” Patrick said. “Almost 10 percent of our schools we rate in the state as failing. Can you imagine to sending your child to a school rated as a failure?”

According to Patrick, students should not be locked into a school district and should be able to cross district lines if their home district is a failing school.

“You should have the opportunity to go to a charter school,” Patrick said. “If you can’t find a public or charter school, then you can apply for a scholarship from private businesses to go to a Catholic school, Christian school or private school.”

Van de Putte spoke more about education after high school. She said she supported paying for Texan students’ community college with the “Texas Promise Plan.”

“It’s not a subsidy; it’s an investment,” Van de Putte said. “Our rainy day fund, even with the withdraw of the water and transportation, will probably be sitting at $8.4 billion. You can take a one-time allocation of $2 billion to the voters, and the proceeds from that could fund every qualified high school graduate for 2 years of community college.”

Van de Putte and Patrick both called for health care reform, although in different ways. Patrick said the government is too involved in health care.

“I want our money to come back in the terms of block grants in the state of Texas," Patrick said. "Our hands are tied in many ways. The federal government is heavily involved. We need to continue and try to provide health care for every Texan.”

Van de Putte chastised Patrick for his lack of public appearances. She said his first press conference, which happened Friday, was too little, too late.

“If voters can’t depend on their leaders to be accessible and accountable to them before their elected, then what kind of behavior will that instill when they are elected?” Van de Putte said.

Patrick said he has been accessible enough, with more than 1,300 meetings with individuals and groups across the state. He defended the rhetoric of the Republican party, which he has spoken about on the campaign trail.

“What I have been saying is the Republicans are not anti-Hispanic, anti-anyone, we are pro-border law and security,” Patrick said.

Patrick stressed his focus on protecting Texans from any dangers across the border and out of the country.

“My one responsibility is to protect the public,” Patrick said. “The DPS estimates we have 100,000 gang members here illegally. We must have legal immigration reform in Washington, but, before that comes, we must secure the border.”

Van de Putte said she also supported securing the border, but that the topic needed to be approached in a sensible manner.

“Just like many people, I am so frustrated at Washington, D.C.,” Van de Putte said. “It seems like both sides of the party is more interested in making the other side look bad than focus on what is needed. [Immigrants] need to have a pathway, they need to pay taxes, not be a criminal, be proficient in English, and they need to get in line.”

Van de Putte said, now that the media portion of her campaign was up, she had an opportunity to take her message to the people.

“Who is Leticia, what does she stand for?” Van de Putte said. “The momentum is there. It’s not just the Latino vote. I’m having a significant Republican crossover on this. Very conservative communities are coming together because they know the difference between a frivolous expense and an investment.”

Government junior Tanner Long said he was disappointed the candidates did not address each other directly.

“I would have preferred Van de Putte and Patrick,” Long said. “However, I think that Van de Putte definitely stayed on message. She conveyed her ideas that puts her in a good light that shows her issues with the Patrick campaign.”