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Texans Actually Agree on Many Problems and Solutions — Now, Lawmakers Must Listen

By Margaret Spellings and A.J. Rodriguez

School children across Texas are falling short at the basics, like reading at grade level. And voters across Texas — no matter their party, ethnicity, income, or hometown – are worried.

Voters are equally united in their concern about a range of issues that affect their daily lives, from having access to well-paying jobs to keeping communities safe from crime. Thankfully, these Texans are also united in supporting some common-sense solutions that state officials can adopt to ensure Texas’s future remains as bright as its past.

That’s what we learned from Texas 2036’s most recent Texas Voter Poll, which asked 1,000 voters statewide last month about the most significant issues facing the state.

With each of Texas’ 181 legislative seats and every statewide office on the ballot in the March 1 primary and November elections, these results provide elected officials with reliable data on the issues that voters see as most critical.

Some survey results showed that Texas voters differ on issues based on their location, age, or party.

For example, Houston voters were more concerned about crime increasing in their community than those in Dallas. Younger voters were more worried than others about housing or rent payments. And rural voters said they have more faith in local law enforcement than urban voters.

None of that will surprise Texans who speak with their neighbors, debate with their family members, or follow the news.

However, the poll also revealed that Texans share many common concerns around issues that could bring consensus — issues that are often overshadowed by those that drive controversy or headlines.

We can’t afford to allow voters’ concerns about these everyday issues to fester or for pessimism to take hold. For our state to be the best place to live and work, we must look at voters’ frank assessment of where we are today and develop strategies to do better.

Texas had two decades of rapid economic growth before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We will be heading into the 2023 legislative session with the financial resources and statewide talent to solve the problems voters have identified and carry on the legacy of success.

So what are those problems where Texans agree? Among other things, four in five voters are extremely or very concerned about Texas elementary school students’ low reading scores. Three in five are very or extremely concerned that the state’s $100 billion yearly investment in education and workforce doesn’t lead to well-paying jobs. And nearly half say crime is on the rise in their community.

Those views contribute to a broader sense of alarm: more than half of Texans are very or extremely concerned about the state’s future, significantly up from before the pandemic. And three in five rate state government as doing just a fair or a poor job serving their needs.

Thankfully when Texans agree on problems, they can also agree on potential solutions.

  • 72% say that Texas must accept and maximize the impact of federal infrastructure and COVID relief funding.
  • 77% say state leaders must set goals for education and workforce that ensure Texans earn wages at least high enough to provide for themselves without government assistance.
  • 71% of Texas voters said the state needs to care enough about how much all students are learning to measure their progress with standardized testing.
  • And in Texas 2036’s prior poll last August, nearly nine of 10 agreed Texas students should be able to take advanced coursework online when those courses are not available at their schools.
Armed with that data, our leaders have a clear path forward.

This is a moment to bring people and businesses together to support policies that address fundamental issues of concern, focus on voters’ priorities, and maintain Texas’ historic leadership as we prepare for the state’s bicentennial in 2036.

Margaret Spellings is a former U.S. Secretary of Education and is currently President and CEO of Texas 2036. A.J. Rodriguez is Executive Vice President of Texas 2036. This column first ran in the San Antonio Express-News.

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