Brownsville ISD trustee to serve on TASB advisory committee

Brownsville ISD trustee Daniella Lopez Valdez has been elected to serve on a key legislative advisory committee of the Texas Association of School Boards. (Gary Long | The Brownsville Herald)
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Brownsville Independent School District trustee Daniella Lopez Valdez said she will use her election to the Legislative Committee of the Texas Association of School Boards to advocate directly to state leaders in Austin for full funding for Texas public schools.

Lopez Valdez was elected to the committee at TASB’s Summer Leadership Institute in San Antonio a week ago. Speaking with The Brownsville Herald on Tuesday, she said the appointment comes at a critical time for Texas public schools, with the Legislature still holding onto billions of dollars in funding for public schools in a showdown with Gov. Greg Abbott over vouchers.

The November general election will determine partisan makeup of the 89th Texas Legislature, which convenes in January. It is expected to also dictate what happens next in Abbott’s bid to allow parents to access public school funds to pay for private schools through vouchers.

Meanwhile, BISD Superintendent Jesus H. Chavez said he supports Lopez Valdez’s election to the committee, that she is someone who understands the issues and will work for the good of BISD, South Texas and students throughout the state as funding issues play out over coming months.

BISD on Thursday adopted a $561.5 million operating budget for the 2024-2025 school year that includes spending $23.6 million from fund balance to offset the absence of no new state funding. The budget includes 2% pay raises for all employees and no layoffs.

Lopez Valdez said her election to the TASB committee marks the first time in 17 years that a representative from a school district in the Region One Education Service Center has served in that role. The committee advocates directly with state leaders for the shared policy priorities of Texas schools.

Based in Edinburg, Region One includes the eight South Texas counties of Cameron, Hidalgo Jim Hogg, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata. It is the fifth largest of the 20 ESC regions in Texas, has 38 school boards and serves more than 400,000 students among the the state’s more than 5 million public school students.

Lopez Valdez is vice president of the BISD Board of Trustees and chairwoman of its budget and policy/legislation committees. She was first elected to the board in 2020 and has made it a priority to advocate for full funding for Texas public schools among other priorities.

“I have the passion for it and I believe that we have to speak up. I think I can talk to people on both sides of the aisle,” she said of serving on the committee.

“We go up to Austin and we sit with the education committees in the House and in the Senate, and we know who is for and who’s against, and we help draft our priorities and we take our priorities to every single legislator who’s going to make a decision and tell them what our priorities are, which is to invest in students and keep local control,” she said.

State Rep. Erin Gamez, D-Brownsville, released a statement supporting Lopez Valdez in the post.

“Public education is vital to South Texas. Our community schools have helped lift countless numbers of children out of poverty and given them the opportunity to achieve the American dream,” the statement reads.

“Furthermore, in Cameron County, the largest employer is Brownsville ISD, and this is true for many other counties in South Texas, where public school districts are often among the top employers. Despite tight budgets, South Texas schools have excelled in educating a diverse student body across urban, suburban, and rural settings.”

Lopez Valdez said the state emphasizes South Texas’ role in economic development, but without properly funding schools to ensure they are able to fulfill their role in workforce development and educating all students.

“There’s so much focus on our region right now for economic development. There’s so much focus on these huge companies like SpaceX and LNG. The push from the state is to be this economic powerhouse, but you can’t be an economic powerhouse if you don’t fund the people … who are producing the workforce, which goes hand in hand with a growing economy,” she said.

“I feel really grateful that our region is represented. I feel very humbled but honored, but also a huge weight on my shoulders,” she said. “This is a very politicized game. I mean people are going to say you’re weak on the border if you’re for public education.”

In a statement, she expressed gratitude to her peers for electing her to the committee.

“For too long, our students and teachers have faced under funding, with no increases in the basic allotment for education since 2019, despite the fact that inflation has risen by 17%. When it comes to state spending on education, Texas trails the national average by over $4,000 per student and ranks 42nd in the nation in per-student spending. This despite the Texas economy being the eighth-largest economy and having a projected budget surplus of $18.6 billion. We have the money, and we need to invest it in our future to remain one of the top economies in the world,” the statement reads.