Candidates competing for seats in the Texas House and Senate will be on hand Thursday to participate in Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation’s forum, the focus of which is public education.

The forum begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Cleburne ISD Administration building, 505 N. Ridgeway Drive. 

Candidates in the Texas Senate District 22 and House District 58 races have been invited.

On the Senate side, state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, seeks re-election. Birdwell will face Democratic challenger Robert Vick in November’s general election.

On the House side, state Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, seeks re-election and will face Democratic challenger Cindy Rocha in the general election.

Participating candidates will field four questions related to statewide public education issues such as school funding, testing, teaching and vouchers. Candidates will also address questions presented by local residents concerning issues they believe to be relevant to their local district.

The forum, one of more than 40 candidate events scheduled across the state, is part of Raise Your Hand’s For the Future program, a new pro-public education grassroots advocacy effort, Raise Your Hand Media Relations Associate Tessa Benavides said.

Raise Your Hand works with school officials, families and others to strengthen educational leaders and develop innovative practices to advance classroom learning and the educational experience, according to their website.

A 501(C)(3), Raise Your Hand is the state’s largest non-profit dedicated to public education.

“Raise Your Hand Texas applauded lawmakers for the progress made on important issues like school finance and full day pre-kindergarten through the 86th legislative session,” Raise Your Hand Advocacy Director Libby Cohen said. “But we know that public education is too important  to ever be marked complete on the legislature’s priority list. We want to build on the momentum of last session to bring more people into the conversation.”

Admission is free and all are encouraged to attend. A list of upcoming Raise Your Hand For The Future events can be found at advocacy.raiseyourhandtexas.org/events.

“We believe the future of Texas is in our public schools and that every legislative session should be a public education session,” Cohen said.

Raise Your Hand representative Matthew Hall discussed public education during Cleburne’s Pinnacle Club 50 monthly meeting in December.

The 86th Legislature passed the largest school financing bill in at least 30 years, Hall said, totalling about $11.5 billion.

“About $5 billion of that was to help cut property tax,” Hall said. “To cut or ease the burden of property taxes on taxpayers. Statewide that may not amount to much in the way of reduction, but hopefully it will stop further increases.”

Most of the remaining $6.5 billion went toward school funding in the form of teacher pay raises, pre-kindergarten funding and other measures.”

Moves Hall called great steps but he also noted that the funding is not permanent.

“If they don’t fund this again next session these costs would be pushed back on to our school districts,” Hall said.

Texas lags in student spending, Hall said having moved from 44th to 43rd in light of the recent legislative action.

“We don’t necessarily need to be No. 1,” Hall said. “Because throwing money at a problem is not always the solution. But we should at least try to move Texas to the national average, which is $12,756 per student. Texas, before the House Bill 3 funding, spent $8,691 per student. We think getting us to at least 25th in the nation would be a reasonable goal.”

In regards to Thursday’s forum, Raise Your Hand officials urge residents to stay abreast of education issues, and to vote.

“Public education issues are on the ballot every year no matte what is happening,” Hall said. “So be sure to vote.”

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