House of Representatives District 25: 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? My wife and I graduated from Horn Lake High School in 1977. We work directly with 22 elementary and intermediate schools in DeSoto County. Our small business, Art to Grow On, provides visual art instruction for some 16,000 students throughout the school year. My daughter is a kindergarten teacher at Walls elementary and has been for 19 yrs.
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. Absolutely! My actions to support this funding would come in several areas. First, it is important that I work to influence others. I will work hard to achieve strong, positive working relationships with other members of the House. These relationships will be based on mutual respect and a common interest in that which is best for our children. I will achieve this by working personally with other Legislators on matters that are important to them and their constituents. I will use my influence, my voice, and vote to support full funding.
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 must be diligent in ensuring that everyone is included in providing the required revenue. For example, I believe that large tax breaks for big business ultimately cost more in the long run. We must carefully consider the consequences/benefits of providing such tax breaks. Proper evaluation for large distribution centers, manufacturing plants, retails stores, etc. will provide much needed revenue that we tend to dismiss. Furthermore, productive lives are often a result of adequately educating our children. Properly funding public education will ultimately lead to well educated, productive young adults.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Yes. While the data is still a bit limited, it does indicate that ROI on providing such vouchers is not very good. These funds would be better spent toward enhancing our learning environment within our public schools statewide. We simply must acknowledge that 91% of our children are attending public schools. Facts indicate that properly funding our public schools will allow us to provide greater opportunities for our children. Adequately educating our children will lead to a better education, highly regarded graduates and an outstanding workforce for industry.
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. Accountability must be the same and the measures should be challenging. Failure to provide required measurements should have immediate punitive consequences. Let’s set the bar high and challenge all of our children to reach for the stars!!
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 fund those things that are most important! This simply must be a priority. Adequately funding the MAEP should be a top priority every year. We must be creative in our funding. I think we should creatively consider consolidating school districts with less than 1500 students. We should establish a target number of about 2000 students per district for those that we consolidate. Furthermore, we must be willing to consider best practices initiated within our high achieving districts and implement as many of those practices as possible statewide.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes. As the father of a Kindergarten teacher, I assure you that those children entering Kindergarten without having been in a pre-K program are significantly behind their peers that have been. Furthermore, our kindergarten teachers struggle to determine where to start in order to provide for the class as a whole. Data indicates that our children attending a pre-K program achieve at a higher level throughout their lifetime. It is a difference maker!
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? We must provide greater access to high quality schools for all families. All of these areas are impacted in a positive way when we become more of an educated, confident, productive and generous society. Adequate funding of public education will go a long way toward this goal. While this will take time, it can be achieved. In the meantime, we must encourage the recruitment and retaining of high quality leadership at every level.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes. I do believe that this will take some time and an aggressive, bipartisan plan. We must pursue this goal annually until it is achieved. We can get there, once we are fully committed to doing so. This would also have a huge impact on our ability to hire and retain the best teachers. Raising teacher salaries within our state would make a career path in teaching much more appealing and thereby have a positive impact on our existing teacher shortage.
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…. In most cases their experiences would be a huge value to the 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? I have purposely established a network of principals, teachers, school board members, and superintendents that I will rely on for advice. Their experience and insight into public education will be a most valuable asset. I will seek their advice and other available resources on matters impacting public education.
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? My commitment is to my constituents and my school district as it pertains to educational matters. I will represent the will of those that place their trust in me. Whenever there is a conflict or pressure, my default position will be to influence and vote in support of my constituents and our community.