Joaquin Castro

Twin politicians Julian and Joaquin Castro discussed Texas politics with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs on Tuesday evening. The brothers covered topics such as Medicaid, medical costs and gun control.

Photo Credit: Mikaela Locklear | Daily Texan Staff

This article was corrected after its original posting. Because of a reporting error, the article misstated the number of uninsured Texans. About 28 percent of Texans are uninsured.

The future of the Democratic Party might be right here in the red state of Texas. San Antonio’s twin politicians U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and San Antonio mayor Julian Castro spent Tuesday evening at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs discussing their party’s role in Texas politics.

The Castro brothers lobbied Monday at the Capitol for an extension of Medicaid, two hours after Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn denounced the extension.

Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief and CEO Evan Smith said about 28 percent of Texans are currently uninsured, and Julian Castro said there are millions of unpaid ambulance fees in San Antonio.

In addition to raising concern over medical costs, Julian Castro said Gov. Perry has not been properly prioritizing investments. Julian Castro said Gov. Perry should not have vetoed a tax initiative to increase funding to San Antonio preschools.

Joaquin Castro said Texas and Alaska were the only states to decline to compete in Race to the Top, a program that offered states money to come up with the best practices to increase innovation in K-12 education.

“It was, I think, a missed opportunity to set national standards with other states, to really come onto some new ideas and innovative policies,” Joaquin said.

The interview was followed by audience questions. In response to a question, Julian Castro said the electoral college is fine the way it is. On the other hand, he said that eliminating the Electoral College would be an opportunity for direct democracy.

“There’s nothing more powerful than when folks themselves are motivated to participate in democratic process,” Julian Castro said.

Julian and Joaquin Castro described their positions on gun control during the talk.

Joaquin Castro said he thinks changes regarding guns can be made while still supporting the second amendment. Julian Castro said high-capacity magazines carry the element of surprise, which is not good public policy, but reasonable requirements can be put in place in certain situations, such as for self defense.

Joaquin Castro also discussed immigration and said that currently the net migration rate between America and Mexico is approximately zero because of the struggling U.S. economy, the increase of border patrol agents and a booming Mexican economy.

“This is the moment that we should do comprehensive reform,” Joaquin Castro said.

JuliaCastro said he thinks America is positioned to succeed in the next century as long as the country improves education. In order to do that, America must build up an infrastructure of opportunity, according to Joaquin Castro.

Julian and Joaquin Castro first became interested in politics in 1994 when they ran for, and won, positions in the student senate at Stanford University, according to Julian.

In this August 27, 2011 file photo, U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D) addresses Austinites at a community event. Doggett will be representing a new congressional district after winning Tuesday’s election.

Photo Credit: The Texas Tribune | Daily Texan Staff

Educational advocates Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro will represent Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives, where they plan to push for pro-education reform.

Democratic candidate Lloyd Doggett defeated his three opponents for the position of U.S. Representative in Central Texas District 35, gaining 64 percent of the vote. This will be his 10th term in office. Doggett is a UT alumnus and former student body president. He is working to boost federal support for education while in office, calling for a permanent extension of a $2,500 tax cut for students pursuing a post-secondary education.

Democratic candidate Joaquin Castro defeated his three opponents for the position of U.S. Representative in District 20, which is mainly in the western San Antonio area, with 64 percent of the vote. Castro is currently serving his fifth term as state representative for District 125, which is mainly in the northwestern San Antonio area.

He won the seat Democrat Charles Gonzalez is vacating, putting an end to nearly 40 years of district representation by Gonzalez’s family.

Castro has been called a “rising star” by the Democratic Party and has worked to restore millions of dollars in funding to health care and educational programs, advocating an “Infrastructure of Opportunity,” defined on his website as “good public schools, great universities and a sound health care system ... that enables Americans to pursue their American Dream.”

Doggett said Tuesday night that he looks forward to partnering with Castro and San Antonio officials to “advance what’s already an outstanding community.”

Castro said on his website that he would like to give others the same opportunities he has had.

Doggett has also advocated tax, social security and health care reform to positively affect the middle and lower classes.

Castro has focused other political efforts on the areas of mental health, teen pregnancy and juvenile justice.

Both candidates plan to continue their past initiatives as the new legislative session begins. 

On Tuesday, the Texas Freedom Network helped organize a lobby day to support legislation by Rep. Joaquin Castro, D- San Antonio, which would change sexual education in Texas schools from abstinence-only to a more comprehensive approach. We support the legislation and TFN’s efforts because abstinence-only sexual education is not based on science, evidence or education policy. It does not work, and Texas students deserve better.

Abstinence-only education is currently the only form of sexual education legally taught in Texas public schools. The concept is neither nuanced nor thorough; teachers simply instruct students not to have sex. If you don’t have sex, you won’t get pregnant, contract sexually transmitted diseases or go through any of the emotional issues associated with sexual activity. Duh.

The “don’t have sex” approach has taken Texas youths by storm, as more than half of Texas students have had sexual intercourse. Furthermore, Texas has the third highest teen birth rate in the nation and, most alarmingly, 43 percent of Texas students did not use a condom the last time they had sex, according to information compiled by the Texas Legislative Study Group.

What did our esteemed and uber-abstinence-only supporter Gov. Rick Perry say when Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune confronted him with empirical evidence indicating his beloved method is ineffective? “Abstinence works...from my own personal life, abstinence works.” There you go. On one hand, you have facts and figures and science and reality, and on the other hand, you have Perry and his utterly unsubstantiated claims.

Unfortunately the latter has been driving Texas education policy for the past decade, leading to abysmal sexual health conditions in the state. There is hope, however, with TFN’s lobbying efforts and Castro’s legislation. Under the bill, HB 1624, schools will still teach abstinence-only as the most effective method but will also present information about other forms of contraception, such as condoms and the birth control pill.

Castro’s legislation is a much-needed, long-overdue change. Texas students need and deserve all the facts about sexual activity in order to decide for themselves whether or not to engage in it.

What is more, the legislation could also provide an impetus for a re-evaluation of if and how sexual education is taught in the state. According to the Legislative Study Group, only 4 percent of schools in Texas even teach about teen pregnancy and STD prevention. Forty-one percent of sexual education materials used in Texas schools contain factual errors and 3.7 million Texas students are not taught basic information about unplanned pregnancies and STDs. So not only are Texas educators forced to teach a flawed method of sexual education, but they are somehow managing to teach it incorrectly. Hopefully Castro’s bill will inspire other legislators and education policy makers to reconsider the importance and state of sexual education in Texas.

HB 1624 could not come at a more pressing time. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a law banning federal funding for Planned Parenthood. While the organization is most widely known for providing abortions, it actually spends much of its efforts and resources educating young people about reproductive health and distributing various forms of birth control. If the organization loses federal funding and is significantly weakened, then the state must step in and fulfill that responsibility. Similarly, with the Texas Legislature bent on restricting women’s legal right to abortion, the state must at least effectively educate its youth on the subject.

Lawmakers should listen to TFN’s student lobbyists because HB 1624 is necessary, sensible and hopefully moderate enough to succeed. In a legislative session wrought with problems and slim on solutions, the least our lawmakers can do is approve a bill which actually presents a remedy to one of our state’s most pressing issues.

Sex education in Texas public schools will become more comprehensive if student lobbyists and a state representative get their way. About 75 students from across Texas assembled at the Capitol on Tuesday to advocate for what they call age-appropriate, evidence-based sex education in public schools, as opposed to the abstinence-only policies currently in place. Mackenzie Massey, president of UT’s Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter, helped organize the event to promote a bill authored by Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio. Under the bill, public schools will teach abstinence-only as the most effective way to prevent teen pregnancy. Schools will also have to present information about the effectiveness of methods including condoms and oral contraceptives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections and preventing pregnancy. “This legislation will make sex education medically accurate, focusing on both abstinence and contraception,” Massey said. At the event, Castro encouraged students to be a voice for their peers and claimed this piece of legislation to be the most important bill legislators consider this session. Castro also explained that under Education Works, schools would have the option to opt out of teaching sex education altogether, and parents who do not approve of comprehensive sex education could pull their children out of classes that teach it. “We have tried the abstinence-only policy for quite a while, and the numbers speak for themselves. It just doesn’t quite work in Texas,” Castro said. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas had the third-highest teen birthrate in the nation in 2006. For every 1,000 teens between the ages of 15 and 19, there are 63.1 live births. Mississippi has the highest rate, at 68 live births per 1,000 teens. But the conservative think-tank Family Research Council claims abstinence education successfully reduces self-reported sexual involvement among students. “In light of recent studies showing the positive health benefits of abstinence education, it is unfortunate that Congress has zeroed out abstinence education in favor of sex-ed programs that advocate high-risk sexual behavior when it is children and young teens who suffer the consequences,” Perkins said. Under former President George W. Bush’s administration, states that taught abstinence-only sex education in public schools could receive federal funding for their programs. According to the CDC, Texas received more abstinence-only funding than any other state, but has the highest repeat teen pregnancy rate. In 2010, Congress redirected the funds to states that promote comprehensive sex education. Since that decision, Texas has had to fund its sex education solely on a state level. If Castro’s bill passes, the state could again receive federal funding, he said.