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State Sen. José Rodríguez: 'Education is the Highest Priority'

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT
Texas Standard Host David Brown, left, with Senator José Rodriguez (D-El Paso)"

Even after a weekend full of panels and discussion of Texas politics and policy at The Texas Tribune Festival, many political wonks are looking to the main event: January's new legilative session. 

State Senator José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, sat down with Texas Standard host David Brown during the festival to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda, the state's budget surplus, the upcoming election for governor and more.

On the leadership’s legislative agenda:

“For the leadership, as always, [the focus is] passing the budget, which is the one constitutional requirement that we have. There’s going to be plenty of money. There’s not going to be any no excuse for not investing in the critical issues that I think we confront as a state in education. A judge told us yet again that the school finance system is unconstitutional and we need to fix it.”

On the senator’s legislative agenda:

“Especially coming from my point of view, coming from El Paso, with regard to low-income and the bilingual education programs and more need for certified bilingual teachers – all of those things are important if this state is going to progress in the future. ... Steve Murdock has told us for so many years as a demographer that the fastest-growing youngest population is along the boarder its Latinos. And they need to educated otherwise [we’re] not going to have a future labor force that can help us compete in the global economy.”

On the budget surplus and improvements to infrastructure: 

“Infrastructure is also high on the agenda for the leadership…. I’m a strong advocate for the proposition that will be coming up in November for taking money out or transportation, for roads - Proposition 1. That is only close to $1.5 billion that we’re talking about. The estimates of how much it takes to maintain our current system - not new roads, not new bridges or other infrastructure - is five to six billion. So clearly that fund is going to be a drop in the bucket."

On Wendy Davis’ chances of winning the election:

“The numbers of registered voters in the Latino community, the African-American community, women - who now comprise, in El Paso, over 50 percent of the registered voters - they have a high stake in this particular race involving women’s health programs and other women’s issues like equal pay. If those voters come out to vote, there’s no question she wins, hands-down.”

David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."
Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.