House of Representatives District 3: Candidate Q&A
Candidates for this office were offered a questionnaire on education issues by The Parents’ Campaign. See below for responses received to date.
1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? Before I taught at Northeast Community College for twenty-seven years, I taught in middle school and high school. Later, as a teacher-consultant with the University of Mississippi Writing Project (UMWP), I was responsible for conducting staff developments for high schools in North Mississippi. I served as President of the Mississippi Council of Teachers of English and served on the Joint Advisory Committee for the State Superintendent of Education. My parents were educators, and among my parents and me, we have one hundred years of combined work experience in education in Mississippi.
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. I fully support MAEP in which our state constitution states it “shall” be funded. I’ll fight to invest tax dollars in our children.
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 believe in prioritizing the money we have by investing in Pre-K and K-12 education instead of giving tax breaks to wealthy out-of-state corporations. We must invest in the young people of 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 am an advocate of public schools, where a majority of students are. To focus on charter schools, which have fewer than 1,500 students while 465,000 students in public schools go without adequate resources is unreasonable. The money must be given to public schools.
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, I do believe that private schools should be held to the same standards of accountability as public schools. Teachers and students of private schools should be held to the same evaluative process as public school teachers and students.
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 should fund special education services in public schools each year. Every child in Mississippi deserves a fully funded education, regardless of his/her disability. We already have the tax revenue; instead of giving tax breaks to out-of-state corporations, we can use that revenue for our children.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes, children learn at an early age; so we should invest in Mississippi’s children early on to prevent failures or dropouts later. We can’t miss the opportunity to tap into their early desire and love for learning.
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 we should raise the minimum wage, expand Medicaid, and invest in mental healthcare because these are long term solutions for alleviating obstacles for Mississippi children. They can’t learn when they are hungry; live in squalor; and suffer from untreated mental or physical conditions. Instead of giving tax breaks to out-of-state corporations, we should spend that money investing in our children.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes, I wholeheartedly support raising teacher salaries to at least the southeastern average and raising pay for teacher assistants. Our teachers were hopeful this year of at least a $5,000 raise but instead received $1500. A five thousand dollar raise was a reasonable expectation since teachers have been paid around six thousand less than surrounding states. However, my disappointment served as a catalyst to run for office.
We now have a problem with teacher retention; clearly, if we compensate teachers at the level of surrounding states, it will be easier to retain them and motivate our students to major in education and teach in Mississippi.
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 absolutely believe that retired educators, as well as other state employees, should be able to draw their retirement while serving in the legislature. These funds are not gifted by the state but earned by individuals. If we want changes in education, we need educators who have a vested interest in and operational knowledge of educational institutions. We certainly shouldn’t expect them to choose between drawing their retirement or serving in the Mississippi Legislature.
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 would only be comfortable making decisions about education with input from those impacted by my decision- administrators, teachers, and parents. As a political candidate, I have been soliciting information from teachers, administrators, parents, and students. I am also a member of Prentiss County Retired Teachers and have requested input or suggestions from its members. I have been endorsed by M.A. E. and shall certainly reach out to this organization.
12. Legislators receive tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that may contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How will you respond to this pressure? Since I don’t have a self-serving purpose for running, I won’t succumb to personal greed, but I’ll rely on my constituents because I am part of the community, too. I do believe in compromising sometimes to get things done but never at expense or harm to my constituents.