House of Representatives District 17: 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.

General Election Candidates:  Shane Aguirre  WINNER  /  Cathy Grace

 Shane Aguirre (Incumbent)     WINNER

» See Voting Record


 Cathy Grace

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I taught first grade in Cleveland, MS and worked at MDE as the Early Childhood Coordinator with the responsibility of supporting school districts implement the Assistant Teacher Program and Kindergarten. My children attended public school in Mississippi as did both grandchildren. I have trained thousands of teachers who are employed in the public schools during my career.

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 agree that MAEP should be fully funded every year. The actions I would take would include, but would not be limited to: (1) support repealing the section of MS Taxpayer Pay Raise Act of 2016 to stop the elimination of the corporate franchise tax: $260 million/year when fully implemented and direct those funds toward fully funding MAEP, (2) review the current legislation regarding the funds directed to education that are generated through the casino/gaming revenue that is allocated to the state to determine if the current percentage of funds to the state could be increased.

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? There are various possibilities that could be utilized to ensure state revenue is sufficient. As I mentioned in an answer to an earlier question, review and amend the MS Taxpayer Pay Raise Act of 2016. Another possibility is to fund health care in other ways than how the current system is funded. By examining and seeking alternatives to fund the current system, the state portion of funds for health care could be dramatically reduced and the funds could be redirected to fund services that will increase the chances of our citizens living productive lives.

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 be focused on improving public education by focusing on equity related to the education of all children.

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

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. The fully funding of MAEP will accomplish this. I have answered how I feel we can achieve full funding in previous questions.In addition to the previous answers, I would work with knowledgeable people to amend or repeal the current Education Scholarship Account to address the expansion of services to children diagnosed with special educational needs utilizing the public school services or services contracted through public schools.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes, using the collaborative model per law.

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? The utilization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) federal funds to address the problems listed above is one mechanism that has not been done successfully. Millions of dollars have been contracted to entities that have not been held accountable for outcomes related to alleviation of the obstacles mentioned. Legislators can require more accountability of how the funds are spent and the documented outcomes realized, support state agencies in creating a more comprehensive approach in service delivery, and review current legislation that can serve to create barriers listed above for the purpose of amending laws to eliminate the barriers.

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

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 would seek guidance from local public school administrators, teachers, and parents as well as The Parents’ Campaign, MDE, MPE, Parents for Public Schools, MAE and other professional education organizations.

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? When elected, I will make it clear to the leaders of both houses, I am at the Capitol to represent the people in my District. I want to build a working relationship with legislators regardless of the party they represent so the needed support for the education of our children is realized and the wishes and concerns of the community that elected me are heard and addressed.

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