Hutchison made stops yesterday in Houston and San Antonio to tout her education proposals. I went to the San Antonio event. It was held in the library of Horace Mann, a middle school on the near northwest side. Horace Mann is a single-sex campus for girls, most of them African-American and Hispanic. Hutchison was touting her authorship of an amendment to an education bill in 2001 that authorized single-sex schools and provided $450 million in funding. This was a controversial action at the time, which was condemned by feminist and educational groups as allowing sex discrimination in education. Hutchison described single-sex schools as “very close to my heart” and embraced charter schools, magnet schools, and accelerated high schools as important innovations she would implement. She spoke from a podium, surrounded by students wearing uniforms of white blouses and pleated plaid skirts, along with some school personnel and school district officials. This was not a rally; it was a policy speech. She also called for more use of electronic textbooks, which were approved by the Legislature in the 2009 session. Her campaign talking points include providing every student with a device similar to the Amazon Kindle and confronting Texas’s dropout rate. She cites statistics showing that if current trends continue, more than 30 percent of Texas adults will have less than a high school education by 2040, up from 19 percent less than ten years ago. After her speech, Hutchison visited with school officials and then answered questions from local TV reporters. There was one odd moment. A woman with a tape recorder barged into the gaggle, thrust it in front of Hutchison, and asked, “What is your reaction to the Empower Texas poll that said most Republicans want you to stay in the Senate?” My instant reaction was that this was a Perry plant. No legitimate reporter would ask a question about that “poll,” which was just a push poll designed to get a particular result. Hutchison remained poised. “That’s why I made the decision to stay,” she said. “I really wanted to be campaigning, but I knew I needed to stay and fight health care. It’s going to go over into next year. I want to build the Texas Republican party to a solid majority.” I checked the Express-News and KENS-TV web pages today, and I didn’t see any indication that the event resulted in any earned media for Hutchison. My reaction to her appearance is that it was “sweet.” It was great to see those kids. I was told that the school has had no problem kids, no drug issues, no pregnancies. Hutchison’s amendment is making a difference. But my overall impression was that the event represented an old-fashioned way of campaigning, too much policy, too little energy. UPDATE: Mark Miner of the Perry campaign called to say that the person who asked about the Empower Texas poll was not a Perry plant; the campaign didn’t have anyone at the Hutchison event.
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