Candidate Q&A: Senate District 32

Special Election 2021

Our public education questionnaire was offered to legislative candidates in the November 2 special election. A runoff election will be held on November 23. Search for candidates’ questionnaire responses below.

W.J. Coleman  •  Stan Copeland  •  James Creer  •  Justin Curtis Creer  •  Minh Duong (Runoff) • Rod Hickman (Winner of Runoff)  •  Kimberly Houston  •  Keith Jackson  •  Bradley Joseph Sudduth  

Rod Hickman

Winner of November 23 runoff election
 
1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I was educated in a public school system, the Noxubee County School District, K-12. Prior to going to law school I spent 2 years as a full time substitute in the Mississippi Public School System. I have many family members currently teaching and in K-12 administration. I also work closely with our local public school district as a mock trial coach, frequent guest speaker and active parent; my daughter currently attends a Mississippi public school.
 
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, I agree that the MAEP should be fully funded every year. First, MAEP is by title, only adequately funding our education system in the state; anything below that is inadequate and an inadequate education system leads to an inadequate economy, inadequate communities and an inadequate Mississippi. To ensure that the MAEP is fully funded each year I will properly access the budget, revenue and current Mississippi funding scheme for education to propose budget formulas that that include fully funding MAEP each year.
 
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? Mississippi’s greatest resource is its people. We have to come together as a legislative body and be fiscally responsible, innovative as it relates to revenue and meet the needs of our citizens. One of the big issues facing this state is infrastructure. That includes roads and bridges but also access to reliable internet. Reliable internet will allow a Mississippian in the most rural parts of District 32 to run a successful business from their home and generate income and revenue not only for that individual but the state, which in turn provides a direct benefit to making sure the entire state has that access to reliable internet. That is one example of how providing Mississippi’s citizens the services they need to lead productive lives is also a benefit to the state in tangible and intangible ways.
 
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 am opposed to vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools. As with any rules there are exceptions. If a student with special needs cannot be provided the services necessary from their public school district but those services are provided by private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools then I do feel vouchers are appropriate in those limited situations.
 
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 a school receives public funds from taxpayer dollars then it should be held to the same accountability measures 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, I agree that special education services in public schools should be fully funded every year. Fully funding special education services shouldn’t be an option and the same with fully funding the MAEP. Every child in this state should have the opportunity to receive an adequate education and be pushed to their fullest potential. To accomplish full funding I would again review the budget along with revenue properly access the budget, revenue and current Mississippi funding scheme to propose legislation that fully funds special education.
 
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes, I agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide. Early childhood education is so important. I never attended daycare, my parents couldn’t afford it. Until I was old enough for school my grandmother kept me while my parents worked. However, school came early for me through the Head Start program. If there was no Head Start I would have been extremely behind when I entered kindergarten. It is important to start adequate education early, this helps bring about an equitable beginning to a child’s education and also advances our education system as a whole.
 
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 believe legislators should first evaluate the needs of the communities they serve and how the needs of that community are affecting the students in that area. Once those needs are evaluated we have to come up with solutions to the needs that are able to be met. Legislators must also propose plans, legislation and ideas that help to reduce those barriers. Legislators also have to use their position as a leader to lead efforts in their communities. I further believe that doing as much as we can as an individual in our capacity as a member of the community goes a long way.
 
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes. I support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants. Teachers are a gateway to the future and we want our best and brightest in Mississippi classrooms educating Mississippi students.
 
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.
 
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. I have many friends and family members that are educators (current and retired) and those will be my advisors. I value the opinions of people that are in a field, in fact I consulted with some of those individuals to answer these questions. This is a representative position and there is no way to represent people without hearing and valuing their opinions and needs.
 
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 at my best when I serve. I don’t think you can call what you do services if you’re not doing it for the people you should be serving. I have always been an independent thinker but more importantly I am always persuaded by the needs of the people I serve.

Kimberly Houston

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? My personal experience with K-12 public schools is with both of my children. They both attended Pre-K and are now both attending Meridian High School. I have served as PTO President, Band Booster Parent, and I currently serve on various committees with the Meridian Public School District. I often speak to the students of all grade levels encouraging them to live on purpose. Through my affiliation with other organizations, we provide much needed resources to public schools as needed/requested. When the 3rd grade reading gate was passed, I spearheaded a community effort to recruit volunteers to work with the Meridian Public School District to make sure our students did not fail. The program was called “Read With Me.” I truly believe that if public schools fail our entire community will fail.
 
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! I agree that we should FULLY FUND EDUCATION EVERY YEAR. I hope to accomplish this by building a relationship with other members of the legislature to review where we can make the necessary cuts to make public education a priority. If we are to have successful adults we must equip them with the educational tools and ensure all districts can have the same educational experience. It is not fair that some districts have more than enough resources while others have to suffer and make do with what limited resources they have. By building relationships and encouraging tours of suffering school districts perhaps then it will become real to those who may not fully understand why FULLY FUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION should be a 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? I will not agree to cut the state income tax and I will look to put limits on tax credits because although we are open for business, we need to ensure that we continue to receive the much needed tax revenue so that all Mississippians can live productive lives. We need every business, especially those who are profitable, to give their fair share to make sure that our educational systems, infrastructure and overall financial needs are being met.
 
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? YES! Taxpayer dollars should only be used to fund PUBLIC EDUCATION. We need more families to CHOOSE PUBLIC SCHOOLS so that our districts can have the financial resources needed to succeed. If we begin to give taxpayer dollars to private institutions then there will be no incentive for families to choose public education.
 
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! If taxpayer dollars are being utilized, they should be held to the same level of accountability. That is only fair. The playing field must be level if Mississippi as a whole is going to succeed.
 
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! As a taxpayer, I truly believe my tax dollars should be used to make sure ALL STUDENTS have what they need to be successful. The funding source will need to come from fully funding the MAEP. If given the opportunity to serve in this capacity, I will work hard to review the current budget and look for areas where we may be giving too much money to special interests and move those dollars to education and other areas that will position Mississippi to rise above our current status. We can’t continue to say we value education and yet not put any financial resources behind it.
 
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? YES! I think it is unfair that we require our students to pass the 3rd grade reading gate without first requiring and providing high quality early childhood educational opportunities.
 
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? Legislators should fully fund the MAEP so that we can have qualified counselors and life coaches in every school district on full time bases. Every household is different and until we take an active interest in the overall welfare of our youth and families, it will continue to be a challenge for us to move past these barriers. We can’t continue to put all students in a one size fits all box and expect them to be great without first knowing what’s going on with “Johnny” that he comes to school with so many distractions.
 
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? YES! I truly believe if we are ever to attract qualified teachers to our state and make sure we retain those who are making an impact with our students, we MUST offer a salary that will give them a reason to come and a reason to stay. Our teacher assistants are just as important because they play a crucial role in filling in the gaps in the classroom.
 
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! These individuals have so much knowledge and skills that they can offer to help make our educational system and other areas of concern better. If other retired individuals can keep their retirement and still work, then the same should be offered to these individuals. This may help our state get more experienced people to consider to run for office.
 
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! My goal is to have an Education Task Force made up of Principals, Lead Teachers, Parents for Public Schools, Superintendents and others who have a vested interest in Public Education from across District 32. This will ensure that I am being held accountable and that those with a vested interest are helping to guide in our decision making.
 
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? During my time on the Meridian City Council, I learned the THE BEST INTEREST OF THE PEOPLE must always be the driving force behind my decisions. Even when it was not popular, I stood my ground on such things as having an active parent on the school board. Because I heard the concerns of teachers and other parents – I stood my ground despite the ongoing opposition. I will establish a district task force to assist me in making sure we are keeping the needs of the people as a top priority.

Bradley Joseph Sudduth

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I currently have five children in school. (2) 7th graders in Northeast Middle School. I also have (3) 5th graders in Northeast Middle School. I am very active in my children’s education.

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. With Mississippi online sales tax adding to the treasury it’s time for Mississippi to fully fund education (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? We can’t always predict pandemics. One thing we can do is prepare a workforce that is educated for that particular company’s needs, which would give Mississippi good jobs and more revenue to fund services for our state.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? I don’t know the answer to this right now. My children go to public school and I realize that each person can find success in different opportunities.

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? What is good for one school may not be the same for another. There should be standards in place for accountability.

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 would need to put certain mandates in place to ensure funding but I realize this can be difficult if the money is not there.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? When we invest in our children we can’t lose. There are many things in the early childhood that are critical. Programs that encourage literacy are a must.

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? Coping skills are issues that are most challenging for lots of Mississippi children. As a foster parent I have seen this time and time again. Finding opportunities to help fund families with psychological and family stress is a must.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes, 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? When you have an expert in education that can legislate and there’s no conflict of interest, yes.

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 do not know everything and will depend on seeking wisdom from others when necessary. I come from a family of educators. I have 2 brothers that are new teachers. Also, my stepmother is a retired teacher from Louisville, MS.

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? There are several pressures as a law maker. We will have to negotiate at times to be effective leaders. My goal is not to just vote on bills but to be a bill writer and legislate with a strong voice. “We still have more to do.”

W.J. Coleman

NO RESPONSE

Stan Copeland

NO RESPONSE

James Creer

NO RESPONSE

Justin Curtis Creer

NO RESPONSE

Minh Duong

Advanced to November 23 runoff election

NO RESPONSE

Keith Jackson

NO RESPONSE

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