Candidate Q&A: Senate District 15
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 Bart Williams and Joyce Meek Yates. Search for candidates’ responses below.
Defeated in September 22 special election
Levon Murphy, Jr.
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’m a product of public school education. Unlike most people, I’ve seen both sides. I attended a private school for a year. My children will attend public school. I have one that’s a first grader now.
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, it absolutely should. There’s a relation between being fully funded and achievement. In 2008, which is the last time MAEP was fully funded, fourth graders had the highest reading level in the nation. I will vote in favor of fully funding MAEP every time.
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? That’s where economic development comes in. Here in Choctaw County there’s an agreement where the coal mine gives our school system a certain amount of dollars yearly and that helps a lot.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Yes, I will oppose. Those tax dollars would be taken away from the public schools which are already under funded.
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, they should be held accountable. If private voucher schools are getting tax payer dollars they should be held to the same standards as 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. Yes, we must take care of the special needs kids.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes. Starting them early is beneficial to them and their mental development. Children that attend pre-kindergarten have higher cognitive test scores from toddler age up to 21 years of age.
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? Family stresses are kind of out of the legislators’ control. As far as poverty and learning and psychological problems, we need to make sure we continue to bring business in creating jobs. We must make sure we fully fund special education services to aid our students with learning and psychological problems.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes, we are currently 50th out of 50 states in teacher salary. That has to change.
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. The career they choose should not ban them from being able to serve their communities.
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 know a number of teachers and retired teachers that I could go to for advice.
Advanced to runoff election October 13