Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Abbott defended education cuts in keeping with job duties

Wendy Davis made a claim about Greg Abbott defending billions of dollars in education cuts. We rate it Half True (Davis campaign advertisement, Dec. 3, 2013).
Wendy Davis made a claim about Greg Abbott defending billions of dollars in education cuts. We rate it Half True (Davis campaign advertisement, Dec. 3, 2013).

When Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott visited a Dallas-area school district, the leading Democratic aspirant cried foul.

"As Greg Abbott visits a Plano ISD school today it’s unlikely that he will apologize to students for defending school budget cuts and fighting against their school district in court," state Sen. Wendy Davis said in a Dec. 3, 2013, post on her campaign website.

"Greg Abbott’s actions speak louder than his words. While I fought against over $5 billion in unconstitutional budget cuts to our public schools," Davis said, Abbott "wasted taxpayer funds to defend those cuts in court."

Davis, a Fort Worth state senator, helped force a special legislative session in 2011 by filibustering, and temporarily delaying, a decision by the revenue-strapped Republican-majority Legislature to reduce education funding by more than $5 billion through 2012-13.

And did Abbott, the state’s attorney general, defend the cuts in court?

State attorneys working for the agency helmed by Abbott have indeed defended the constitutionality of the school funding system and the legislative reductions.

But Abbott’s role defending the state appears to be in keeping with the duties of the attorney general as specified in the Texas Constitution, which says the attorney general "shall represent the state in all suits and pleas in the Supreme Court of the state in which the state may be a party."

Lawyers representing groups of districts in the latest lawsuits each said it would be unusual for an attorney general not to defend a state law and related legislative decisions.

We concluded that the Democratic candidate’s claim was correct as far as it went, but it also was missing important details and context in that the state attorney general has a legal duty to represent the state in legal fights. It would be unusual for an attorney general not to defend a law and legislative actions against lawsuits.

This partly accurate claim came out Half True.