House of Representatives District 31: 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? Personally, I am a proud product of the Indianola Public School District. My wife and I were classmates and friends in school. We graduated together at Gentry High School and started dating and later married after college. My father was an esteemed educator who received several STAR teacher awards in his career. He taught Chemistry and Science in high school for over 30 years. He later became a high school principal and retired to teach at Mississippi Valley State University. My mother was a Business and Typing Teacher (later BCT) for 30 years and retired as well. She still teaches JMG (Jobs for MS Graduates in Ruleville, MS (now over 40 years in public education). My wife has taught 3rd Grade Science and Social Studies at East Sunflower Elementary. We proudly raise two beautiful and bright children who are in 9th Grade and 11th Grade respectively here in the Sunflower County Consolidated School District. I have been asked on many occasions to volunteer, speak to, and mentor students across this district.
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 sincerely believe that our children have been given a raw deal by politicians in the Legislature who do not believe in fully funding, as promised and passed by the legislature in 1997, public education. We need to fully fund MAEP as the law states. In my district, Sunflower County, we are underfunded by 1.8 million this 2018-2019 school year! That is unacceptable and I take it very, very personal because my children are a part of this district. When I see some of their teachers struggle to find material and lessons for them because they do not have books, or they are purchasing resources from their own pockets, I have a problem with that. My wife and I have to purchase materials for her class. I know that we, as a state, can do better for our children. When I am elected, I plan to fight and advocate for our children and the public schools in Mississippi.
As far as the funding formulas being revised, I do not believe they should be revised because the state has NOT fully funded under this original formula. Let’s utilize the formula in place now and honor it and give the schools and teachers the resources needed for student achievement.
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? Continue to vote, as I have done this past Session, to ensure that our children and teachers are not left out of the resources this State uses and gives away to corporations in tax incentives. Leadership balances the budget on the backs of teachers and our children.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Will always oppose! Public school dollars must stay in public schools. I disagree with the argument that the money should follow the child in the form of vouchers. Many of our schools, especially here in the Delta, are struggling to just survive already. We are seeing more and more parents opting to take their children to non-public schools because of a lack of resources and qualified personnel. WE need more funding to fill in those gaps. We need books, advanced technology, teacher pay raises and incentives, and classroom supplies etc. in order to compete and maintain the standards that are required.
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? I believe they SHOULD be required to meet those same accountability standards as public schools. If they take the taxpayer dollars, it also comes with the same accountability as public schools have to adhere to. You cannot “have your cake and eat it too.”
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 have close friends and family members who have children with disabilities and special needs that require additional support in their schools. I will pledge to support fully all special education services in public schools.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes! The early formative years are vital in order to achieve successful growth in a child’s life.
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? First, we must remove these handcuffs from our teachers and allow them to get back to teaching. Tests such as the 3rd Grade Exam and Exit Exams in High School are diverting their teaching strategies from preparing our children with the necessary life skills they will need to focusing on teaching what’s on a test. It begins with education, as my good friend Rep. Jay Hughes says. We must equip our teachers to educate our children and stop with all of the testing requirements and burdens we place on our teachers.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes! Voted for it!
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! Most definitely!
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 always accepted the advice of those who were experts in the field. Please continue to help me and my colleagues as you have done in the past.
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? Plain and simple, vote my convictions. If I do what is right and just, God will take care of the rest. Leadership, lobbyists, and party leaders are mere humans like myself. They are not God. God has and will always provide what I need.