House of Representatives District 37: 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.
Gary A. Chism (Incumbent) WINNER
1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I personally attended public school my entire school career as a child. My husband and I decided to home school our children and interact with a number of public school children within our community frequently.
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. Because MAEP is mandated to be fully funded each year, yes, I do believe that it should be. MAEP is a portion of the entire education budget, annually. Given that fact, I will work diligently to discover the areas of the education budget that can be cut and reallocate those funds toward 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? Mississippi does not need to ask for any more income from the residents of the state. What does need to happen is Mississippi needs to cut wasteful programs and reallocate funds that are taking tax dollars away from the obligations it already has to its citizens. There is far too much money being spent on special favors and laws which punish people for non-violent offenses.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Vouchers open Pandora’s Box to allow the unrealized possibility of state dictation over the curriculum taught in a non-public school. Where ever public money flows, strings can often be attached. We do not have leadership in the state, currently, that would push for such reforms; however, that doesn’t mean that it will never happen. Government subsidies always open the door to government regulation. I am opposed to vouchers.
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? This question reiterates my viewpoint above regarding vouchers. I am opposed to government oversight into the affairs of a private business. The vouchers in Mississippi currently are for special education. There should be a degree of transparency as to whether that need is being served. When a business receives public monies they are only responsible for transparency of the use of those monies as stipulated in the legislation, most typically with regard to use of the funds for the project as requested. The rest of the business is not observed and audited. At the most, I would expect vouchers to be treated the same way. After all, the entire fee for the child to attend the private school is not funded with public money, so why should all of the education experience be scrutinized?
I do realize, though, that there are a growing number of individuals who would ask for accountability across the board, and it just solidifies my argument against vouchers.
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. I will work diligently to discover the areas of the education budget that can be cut and reallocate those funds toward toward special education in order to fully fund the program.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Early childhood education is a unique situation for each community. The needs for early childhood education in a more prominent community will not be the same as the needs of a community that has a higher percentage of lower income families. Early childhood education needs need to be assessed on a local level in order to most benefit the children and the state.
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? Creating an environment that supports a strong economy and opens up opportunities for innovation and job growth will help relieve a good amount of stress. Also,addressing the myriad of laws that call certain non-violent acts “crimes” are continuing to tear families apart. The laws need to be repealed so that the children and parents can heal, and the stress and resulting psychological problems caused by the stress will start to diminish. It will not be a miracle that we see take place overnight, but it will be a step in the right direction.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? I do.
10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their retirement while serving in the Legislature? It appears we have reached a point where the Law of the Unseen is at work. When the law was written promises were made without the awareness that this could be the situation in the future. It is understandable that promises have been made, and individuals expect them to be kept. However, because our current pension fund is unfunded and we cannot meet our future obligations, these individuals would be drawing from the fund while still contributing to its future collapse. Unfortunately this is not a black and white issue. Much care and consideration needs to be made with how to approach it.
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? Absolutely! I am not an expert in the area. I do not work in the field. Who am I to tell those who are entrenched in their area of expertise “the way it should be”? I will seek the wisdom of those in the Legislature who have worked in this capacity. I will not be afraid to speak to those in my district who work in this capacity. In fact, I plan to hold, at the very least, annual round tables to hear from those that are in the trenches. As a legislator I cannot know everything. That is why it is important to seek advice, not just in education, from those who are familiar with the issue.
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? As the Representative for District 37 I will not need to bow to the pressure of the Republican Party or the Democrat Party. I have at my advantage the ability to move between the two parties on issues that we agree with, and bring people together across the aisle because I am not from either of their sides. Both parties have the same goal in mind, but what they lack is the ability to agree on how to achieve those goals. Because of that the communication between the “two sides” gets very little accomplished. I have been, and am able to, show both sides that they agree on issues that matter to, and affect, the people.
I refuse to be bought by any lobbyist. My votes will always be judged by how a piece of legislation impacts the individual, using great care to have foresight on the unseen consequences down the road.