Swelling Hispanic population sparks bipartisan conversation on public policy

Alberto Long

A swelling Hispanic population will continue to affect public policy related to immigration and education in Texas according to speakers at the Texas Tribune Event Series.

The Texas Tribune hosted a bipartisan “conversation” with two state representatives Thursday morning as part of the Tribune Events Series. 

State Reps. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, discussed budget cuts and the voter redistricting of 2011, which was intentionally deemed discriminatory by a federal court. They debated whether or not demographic shifts affected those decisions. 

“The first time that we have a majority of public school kids who are African American or Hispanic and we took pretty dramatic steps last session,” Anchia said. “We cut 5.4 billion dollars from the public education budget. We hadn’t done that in the history of the State.” 

Gonzales denied seeing any racial factors that determined the cuts. He framed the problem as a byproduct of a struggling economy.

“[The cuts had] absolutely zero to do with changing demographics [and everything to do] with a very changing economy,” Gonzales said. “You saw re-adjustment of budgets at the county, state, and federal level. Everyone made a concerted effort to re-prioritize what [funds] we had. I don’t see any race component there at all.”

The representatives also discussed immigration reform and the State’s low percentage of civic participation. Anchia and Gonzales noted that Texas consistently ranks among the lowest states in terms of voter turnout. For the last presidential election, Texas was ranked 50th in the nation. 

Despite several points of contention between the two representatives,  Anchia and Gonzales agreed that the key to solving most of the state’s issues will be education. Both spoke anecdotally about the transformative and beneficial effects of education.  

Anchia and Gonzales agreed that budget cuts affecting education limit initiatives to better schooling in the state.

“The only reason I was able to move ahead is because I received scholarships for both undergrad and law school,” Anchia said. “If we continue to cut, cut, cut and raise tuition prices, we’re going to dismantle the very infrastructure that has helped generations of Texans move ahead. That’s been the access to the next station in life, to the middle class. We must keep that going.”