As an outgoing member of the AISD Board of Trustees and mother of two children, Democrat and newly elected state House Rep. Gina Hinojosa calls upon the UT students she now represents to demand that state lawmakers take funding for public education — especially higher-ed — more seriously.
“If we have the numbers of the University engaged in our system of government, it would be a different Texas,” said Hinojosa, who will represent House District 49, which covers West Campus and UT. “We desperately need the involvement of our college students in our process and again because of our access here at UT to the capitol.”
A Mission, Texas native and daughter of two lawyers, Hinojosa graduated from UT with Plan II Honors and government degrees and went on to receive a degree from George Washington Law School in 1999.
Although she helped fight and win legal battles, Hinojosa said her 10 years of experience as a volunteer organizer proved grassroots tactics, which involve community engagement, are the most successful.
“That kind of work is going to be the key to advancing a progressive agenda in this state,” Hinojosa said. “UT is ripe for that kind of work, and we can all be part of that.”
Hinojosa also serves on the AISD Board of Trustees and acted as president last year. Hinojosa said the state should fund its public schools more instead of Texans carrying the burden through property taxes.
“People have had to sell their homes because they can’t afford to pay their property tax bills,” Hinojosa said. “We live in a very generous community that wants to pay what is fair, but the current system isn’t fair to taxpayers and it’s not fair to students.”
According to the Dallas Morning News, in the 2011 legislative session, $5.4 billion was cut from public education funding. Hinojosa said higher-education funding has been slashed by the state, which refuses to take up the slack in funding, and she said she will be responsive to students bemoaning rising tuition rates.
“I think it’s going to be hard to get money out of this legislature,” Hinojosa said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.”
Hinojosa said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s proposed transgender bathroom bill, which prevents transgender individuals from using the bathroom of their choice, pits his Republican followers against transgender individuals and advocates to gain political support for himself.
“This is just an effort by Dan Patrick to bully them and I won’t stand for it,” Hinojosa said. “It’s frankly a red herring to take attention off what is the real work of the Texas Legislature.”
The current representative for HD 49, Elliott Naishtat, said Hinojosa can lead the district and adequately speak for UT students.
“I have no doubt but that the district will be in good hands with Gina Hinojosa,” Naishtat said. “I know she is committed to addressing issues that affect public school education and public school finance.”
Despite being a Democrat and representing a University and city that is largely liberal, Hinojosa can appeal to all UT students because she advocates for the student body as a whole, said Joseph Trahan, University Democrats communications director.
“I definitely think that she will have more appeal among college Democrats,” said Trahan, a public relations junior. “That’s not to say that she won’t be able to adequately represent the issues and interests of students overall because she is very receptive.”