House of Representatives District 56: 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.
Philip Gunn (Incumbent) WINNER
1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? All six of our children attended K-12 public schools. I attended public schools as did my spouse. My sister is a public school teacher. My parents put me in private school for two years, so I have real world experience with both.
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. Yes, I will advocate for and vote for fully funding the MAEP every year. I will work to end side door funding of no contract, no bid deals and end excessive standardized tests.
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? End no bid and no bid/no contract deals which siphon hundreds of millions of Mississippi taxpayer dollars out of the state and into the hands of out of state corporate interests.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Yes, parents with children in private schools have the right to send their children there and decide to do so without benefit of state aid.
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 public school special education services should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state annually since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. Yes, by ending side door deals with no bids and/or no contracts/no bids that siphon tens of millions of taxpayer dollars out of our schools.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high-quality early childhood education statewide? Yes, without question.
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? Recognize poverty as manmade and therefore solvable by human beings. Programs should be established to access unmet family needs early. Raise the minimum wage and provide job skills programs for parents that need it.
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 state 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? Education professionals in my district who serve in the public schools, working and retired, will be consulted, as well as MAE (Mississippi Association of Educators) and AFT (American Federation of Teachers).
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? I will put my constituency first. I have experience standing up to such pressure from being in the practice of law against very powerful forces.