Candidate Q&A: House District 37

Special Election 2020

Our public education questionnaire was offered to legislative candidates in the September 22 special election. A runoff election will be held October 13 between David Michael Chism and Lynn Wright. Search for candidates’ questionnaire responses below.

David Michael Chism (RUNOFF)  ●   Vicky Rose   ●   Lynn Wright (RUNOFF)

David Michael Chism

Advanced to October 13 runoff election

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I hold a bachelor’s in education from Mississippi University for Women. I regularly attend school board meetings, and I have three children currently in the county school system.

2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why. The MAEP is the funding mechanism for our state’s public schools. See https://tpcref.org/mississippi-adequate-education-program-maep/ for information.  The short answer is yes. As a fiscal conservative, I will always look for areas of waste. As of right now, none within MAEP have been brought to my attention. In terms of public funding, children are top priority.

3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi’s citizens need to lead productive lives? The key word in this question is “need.” Not all public services are necessary and productive. Some of these programs need to be eliminated, and others need to be trimmed to size, or at least placed in competition with private initiatives to ensure viability and efficiency.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? In the wake of COVID-19, I would not oppose such vouchers. The public school system is scrambling to keep up with the technology. This is unfortunate. If there are private schools that have adequately adjusted to the new norm alongside public schools that are woefully failing, then I believe the families of such students deserve a choice. Schools and districts must get their act together or potentially lose funding.

5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? Yes. There cannot be too much accountability, particularly when public funds are involved. Competition within education is not easy, but it is ultimately healthy.

6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that special education services in public schools should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state every year since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. Special Education is of dire necessity. It needs to be fully funded. “Going cheap” on special education, I believe, will be hurtful to the economy in the long run. Students with disabilities need all the help they can get. Without it, they are at risk of being a financial burden to the system for the rest of their lives, which is a sad state of affairs no matter how you look at it.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes. The earlier, the better. I believe that early intervention is the key to jump-starting a generation of learners.

8. The nation’s top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children? I think that mental health is important. The stigma attached to mental health and its treatment procedures needs to be addressed. Mississippi needs more psychologists and psychiatrists. We need to cut red tape and make it easier for such practitioners to set up shop in MS and do their jobs for the good of our people. Poverty is a different situation. It’s complicated, but in short, I am in favor of lower regulation and lower taxes to attract businesses and factories. This is the biggest solution to poverty.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes. An educator has one of the most difficult and important jobs on the market. Their pay should be commensurate not only with other states but also with their ability to make good things happen for those under their sphere of influence.

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their retirement while serving in the Legislature? I do not have a strong opinion about this issue. It could be argued that those who are truly committed to legislative leadership will be willing to forgo drawing from retirement. But also, if we want “fresh blood” to energize the legislature, we ought not incentivize the legislature as being a hot spot for retirees.

11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies? I will. I commit to using all available tools of research and all available networks of communication. Our public universities are overrun with advocates who are willing to pick up their phones. Ignorantly voting along party lines is not what I intend to do.

12. In the past, legislators have received tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that could contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How would you respond to such pressure? I am good at tuning out noise. Jackson (and Washington for that matter) is full of noise. I will prayerfully consider what is before me. And I will take the birds-eye view of things. What is good for students is good for Mississippi, and vice-versa. The devil is in the details, but the details can and must remain subordinate to the greater picture.

Vicky Rose

Defeated in September 22 special election

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I was raised in the public school system, and I have been a home school mother to my own children, as this was the path we chose for our family. However, this does not mean that I do not support a parent’s decision to send their child to public or private school. My own extended family continues to send their children to public school, as do many of my friends.

2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why. The MAEP is the funding mechanism for our state’s public schools. See https://tpcref.org/mississippi-adequate-education-program-maep/ for information. I fully support schools to be funded in order to deliver the best education to our children, and the support systems necessary to do so. I see the increase in the MAS requirements placed on teachers, students and districts as unfunded mandates. With each demand that is placed on the schools, there is a cost involved in that. The MAS system must be re-evaluated. Districts which are administratively heavy in their budgets should have their books re-evaluated for discovery about where funds locally can and should be diverted back into the classroom.

3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi’s citizens need to lead productive lives? The first place to start in any household that is struggling to get by and meet necessary obligations is to evaluate what cuts need to be made. The state must also do the same thing. Which bureaucratic organizations can be cut, which jobs are unnecessary and create burdens for people in Mississippi by nature of their regulatory overreach, and where can we re divert those funds to, and even give back to the citizens in the forms of decreased taxes.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? I oppose school vouchers for the simple fact that where state dollars flow, there is also the possibility for government to demand the form of education being taught privately. I would support an education tax credit system, much like New Hampshire, should the state not end the state income tax.

5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? If there are taxpayer dollars going to a school system following a certain child, just those certain children should be held accountable to the testing and other standards that public school children are held to.

6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that special education services in public schools should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state every year since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. As i read over MAEP and what it covers, and where there is valid evidence presented that special ed is being underfunded, there is certainly a call for consideration to investigate financial allocation toward these services. Please see my other answers above with regard to funding and redirection of funds to accomplish this goal. Where the funds are not available, partnerships with private organizations as resource tools should be considered in local areas.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Taxpayers do not need to foot the bill for early childhood education. The Montessori system, and others like it, are evidence that children learn best through being allowed to play and explore on their own. Where there are barriers that prevent private organizations from being able to supply these resources, these road blocks should be addressed and removed. The private community will always do a better job at supplying the needs for the young mind than a one-sized-fits-all approach.

8. The nation’s top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children? Systemic poverty is a very real issue in Mississippi. Legislators must start with having an understanding of what families go through in our state if they want to know how to bring relief to families experiencing these problems. They need to sit with the mental healthcare agencies across this state who serve several hundred of these families, knock on doors and get one-on-one with families suffering through these problems. The leaders in our state are not stopping to listen how laws which are currently in place are preventing people from success. Many feel like it is a crime to be poor in our state, and I can’t blame them for feeling that way. CPS gets called on families trying to survive, children of non-violent incarcerated parents suffer in numerous ways, and families struggle to decide whether to pay their light bill or put food on the table. Some families lack the education to have the awareness how their choices impact their children. But public policy cannot ever solve these problems directly. Policy will never be able to be written to put an end to these scenarios (other than making adjustments to the CPS system and re-evaluating our criminal justice system), but barriers to success can be removed. But if lawmakers at down and listened they might hear how barriers such as licensing laws that prevent people from creating wealth for their selves and an education system that teaches to tests instead of educating with real world skills in mind is impacting the lives of most Mississippi families. These are only a few examples of places to start that would bring relief so Mississippi families can breathe and succeed.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Absolutely!

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their retirement while serving in the Legislature? They earned it, yes. The amount of money a legislator makes, aside from those serving in special committee assignments, is pennies in comparison. I have never heard a person tell me they want to run for Mississippi State Office to get rich.

11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies? I will most definitely be seeking input from those in my area. Education is best approached from a local perspective, and the needs of my district are not the same of the needs as, say, a district on the Gulf Coast. I do not pretend to know everything, and I realize that a vote – any vote – impacts every single Mississippian, every time. I would like to hold quarterly Town Halls with the educators, school boards, and administration of the school districts in my House District.

12. In the past, legislators have received tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that could contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How would you respond to such pressure? I am not, and will work hard to remain true to not being bought by any state party, lobbyist or leader of any Committee. I will go to Jackson to work for the best interest of the people, and I have a track record of standing up against the interests of corporations and elected officials even in the face of adversity when the rights of the individual are being threatened. It is that same spirit I bring with me to Jackson.

Lynn Wright

Advanced to October 13 runoff election
 
1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I graduated from Carrollton High School, served as Principal of New Hope High School and Superintendent of Lowndes County School District for two four-year terms ending Dec. 31, 2019.
 
2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why. The MAEP is the funding mechanism for our state’s public schools. See https://tpcref.org/mississippi-adequate-education-program-maep/ for information. Yes. Full funding should be the goal. MAEP should be a priority. We need a bill that designates a percentage of any budget excess be to go MAEP until it is fully funded. For example @ 50%; a $200,000,000 above budget excess would result in $100,000,000 going to MAEP.
 
3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi’s citizens need to lead productive lives? Encourage economic development. Quality education and work force training is essential to provide opportunities for all students to reach their fullest potential and become productive members of society. The more jobs available and the better trained the workforce the broader the tax base and the more services for our citizens.
 
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? I believe parents have a right to send their students to schools of preference. They should furnish their own transportation to a school not in their district. There must be open seats for a school to accept a student out of district. Many parents go to great lengths to have their students in high performing schools. They are willing to go out of district for safety, security, and quality. Some will even sign over guardianship, lease houses, or lie on affidavits to flee one system and enroll in another for their children’s sake. 90% of the students in Mississippi attend public schools and we have a responsibility to make sure they are afforded every opportunity to reach their fullest potential. However, parents of students attending private, religious, home or virtual schools are not exempt from paying taxes to support education. Should they be able to benefit from, in many cases, their own taxpayer dollars? I believe all of our schools are important and have a place. I believe all of children should be afforded a quality education in a safe environment conducive to learning.
 
5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? All k-12 schools funded with the same percentage of taxpayer dollars as public schools should be held accountable to the same standards as said public schools.
 
6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that special education services in public schools should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state every year since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. I agree that special education services in public schools should be fully funded every year. It should be a priority in the budgeting process.
 
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes. We started Pre-K in the Lowndes County School District six years ago. It allows students to have a solid foundation before they move up to Kindergarten. It is a great investment in a child’s future.
 
8. The nation’s top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children? First, the cause has to be addressed. In my opinion, and that of many of my colleagues, the breakdown of the family unit is the root cause of most of these problems. God should be welcome and prayer practiced in our schools. Family values and Christian principals should be taught and emphasized, not alternative lifestyles.
 
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes, they are both severely underpaid and overworked. Teachers and ATs in many cases play a bigger role in the development of a child than the parent(s). Quality instruction is invaluable. Our children are our country’s greatest resource and God’s greatest blessing. Salaries should reflect this responsibility.
 
10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their retirement while serving in the Legislature? Yes. They have earned it. If they were in the private sector or took a position in another state they could draw it. People with the mental capacity and desire to serve should not be penalized. There is no limit to what great minds and servant hearts can accomplish.
 
11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies? Yes. As a principal, I had a faculty/student advisory committee. As a superintendent, I had a superintendent’s advisory committee. I utilized the advice of Central Office Staff, district administrators, teachers, staff, and parents. I would use MASS, MPE, The Parents’ Campaign and other relative resources. My goal would be to make the most informed decisions possible.
 
12. In the past, legislators have received tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that could contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How would you respond to such pressure? I would pray that God would give me the courage and wisdom to do what is right. I have a responsibility to the constituents of district 37. People who know me know I will take a stand for what is right, even if I stand alone.