New Documentary Explores Whether Texas is Keeping its Public Education Promise

Oct 27, 2014

KUT is a media sponsor of the Austin Film Festival.

“The Texas Promise” is screening at the 2014 Austin Film Festival. It tells the story of the $5.4 billion in cuts to education that the Texas Legislature made in 2011 and follows the ongoing legal challenge to that cut and efforts to restore some of that funding.

It’s an ongoing issue Texans ought to be very familiar with but producer/director Vanessa Roth came to this story from the outside.

Roth's documentary work has mainly focused on education and the foster care system. She says the story about how Texas is funding education is one the country needs to know about.

On Why She Wanted to Tell This Story:

Credit http://www.thetexaspromisemovie.org/

“I was intrigued because it felt like Texas is such a mythical place in the country’s imagination, figuratively, about what Texas does. But literally, in education policy and in politics, so many things that start in Texas end up going to the rest of the country. Texas being where it is in the country, the demographic issues, issues of poverty, all these things about english language learners, who the next generation is. All of those things are happening in Texas. So the story of Texas, and education and politics is, to me, the story of that across the country. And whether it’s reflective of other states or sort of a cautionary tale – I mean it’s both at the same time.”

On Whether the Film Takes a Side on Education Funding:

“Yes, the film absolutely is talking about why public education for all kids is essential. Absolutely. And investing in education is essential. But I’ll also say that when I was making the film, we were open to and wanting to talk to everybody. I wanted to also tell a story that got beneath the rhetoric and some myths that I think people have about public education that there’s sort of been a marketing smear campaign around the country about schools – so-called failing schools.”

On the Political Nature of the Film:

“In the film, Wendy Davis is featured prominently and Dan Patrick is featured prominently in the film and they’re obviously very much the people that you’re paying attention to politically right now in the state. Obviously, when we filmed it, we had no idea that they’d be running for the offices that they’re running for now. I think that what’s interesting about the access that we did have is that we made a choice in the film once we either got denied or accepted interview time with the politicians, we made decision not to have any of the politicians interviewed in the film and we just see them in action on the floor of the house or in committee meetings.”

On the Funding Sources of the Film:

"Funding didn't play any part at all in the creative content of the film or the direction we went in the film. The funding comes from a variety of sources. We had one major funder that wanted to stay anonymous but had nothing to do with anything aside from supporting me making a film about what was happening around education and the legislative session."