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Van De Putte, Patrick Ads Battle Over Education

Jennifer Whitney/Bob Daemmrich
Texas Tribune
Democrat Leticia Van de Putte faces Republican Dan Patrick in the race for lieutenant governor.

The education issue has taken center stage in the race for lieutenant governor as the two state senators duke it out on the airwaves. 

Both have been central figures in shaping education policy in the Texas Senate but their visions are very different.

If you live in San Antonio, Democrat Leticia Van de Putte’s hometown, you’re the target audience for Republican Dan Patrick’s TV ad, which refers to his opponent as Liberal Leticia.

Patrick Ad: “Liberal Leticia voted to keep Common Core in Texas, opposed school choice and actually voted to stop schools from removing teachers convicted of a felony,” the Patrick ad says.

Van de Putte’s campaign spokesman calls that statement misleading on all three points.

He says she rejected a ban on national Common Core standards because she thought the state board of education and not the legislature should make that decision. She generally supports school choice but opposed a “choice” bill Patrick sponsored that would have used public money for private school vouchers.  She opposed a bill to remove teachers convicted of felonies because it didn’t allow the teachers to appeal.

At a Dallas campaign stop Tuesday Van de Putte said Patrick’s attacks convince her he’s feeling vulnerable on education.

“I think he’s feeling sensitive on the issue because every single education group, whether it’s teachers, whether it’s a parents’ PAC, whether its administrators, have all endorsed my candidacy, Van de Putte said.

A Van de Putte ad, airing in South Texas, displays side-by-side videos of Patrick making education statements that seem inconsistent.

Van de Putte Ad: “Which Dan Patrick can we trust?” the narrator asks. 

Patrick in one video clip says, “I’m really concerned about the drop-out rate in our inner cities.” In a second video he says, “And so we cut education.”

Patrick has explained his 2011 vote to cut $5.4 billion in public education money by saying the alternative was to raise taxes.  

Van de Putte’s ad goes on to tout what she says she has to offer.

Van de Putte Ad: “Leticia Van de Putte … fought against cuts to our schools and is putting a college education within reach of more working families.”

Patrick tells voters that as chairman of the senate education committee he’s fought against Washington intrusion

Patrick Ad: My education plan will empower parents, teachers and school districts not government.”

Patrick’s recent campaigning has focused on web and TV ads and press releases.  Van de Putte, who trails in the polls, is hoping to make up ground with her ads and 40 public campaign events planned for the final 14 days.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.