House of Representatives District 63: 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.
Deborah Butler Dixon (Incumbent, defeated in primary runoff)
Machelle S. Kyles (defeated in primary)
1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? As a parent, I have been involved in PTO’s and PTA’s chairing committees within my children’s schools. While my son attended Hinds Agricultural High School; I served on the Preservation Committee. In the community, I hold annual back to school drives with wrap around services added for children in rural Hinds County; attending Hinds County Public Schools and Clinton Public Schools. I am an annual volunteer participant for National Read Across America Week; participation with Bolton Edwards Attendance Middle School. Hinds County Schools and Clinton Public Schools host a Reality Fair ( Financial Literacy) for which I have served as a volunteer. I have volunteered for Wear The Cap And Gown Initiative – Hinds County Restart Center.
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 agree to MAEP being fully funded. I worked for the Mississippi education advocacy group, Better Schools, Better Jobs to engage registered voters all over the State of Mississippi to sign a petition that led to Initiative 42 being placed on the ballot.
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? I will advocate/vote to ensure state revenue is more than sufficient. Mississippians are striving for a better quality of life. Machelle Shelby Kyles for House District 63 has identified Raising The Minimum Wage as a platform issue. I will introduce and vote for legislation to get Mississippi to a living wage of $11.63. This is needed to lead a productive life. All citizens deserve insurance/healthcare and presently the wage gap and the non expansion of Medicaid prohibits it.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Yes, I will oppose vouchers. These taxpayer dollars are being taken away from pubic schools; that is the bottom line. Our public schools need it’s whole slice of the pie. Once a parent exercises school choice (charter schools) and or receives a voucher for private schools…those tax dollars go to that school. This is crippling public schools.
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, I do agree the same accountability measures should be in place. The playing field should be equal. As we speak, no accountability measure is in place. These are public dollars. The taxpayers deserve transparency and our children deserve a quality education.
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 without hesitation, special education services should be fully funded every year. The underfunding occurred the last year for MAEP fully funding. To accomplish this, my belief: we would need to revisit another ballot initiative. I would support a ballot initiative. Currently the make up of the legislature in political parties and state leadership have gone to vouchers and school choice support. The vote make up is not in place; so I see a ballot initiative/mandate as a mechanism to fully funding.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes, a high quality early childhood education is essential. Mississippi should implement a robust early childhood education program statewide at Pre-K4. The early learning stages are keen to statistics as they relate to 3rd grade testing.
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 first steps Mississippi should take are: the expansion of Medicaid and increasing funding for mental illness. In looking at school success for K-12 students family barriers; we are looking at the working poor. The working poor are not covered. These are our families that are below the poverty level. They simply cannot afford healthcare and are penalized without service. Service for stress, which leads to heart problems and anxiety. Legislators are accountable to Mississippi children and the expansion of Medicaid and mental health funding will help to alleviate these barriers.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? I do support raising teacher and assistant teacher pay to meet that of the southeastern average. The single biggest threat to public education is topped with low teacher pay. Currently Mississippi has a great teacher shortage, with a movement to lower credentials. We must increase teacher pay to maintain and attract the best and brightest teachers.
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, retired educators should be able to draw their state retirement while serving in the Legislature. They should not be penalized for yet offering themselves to serve the community. Retired teachers are the most learned population and have invaluable insight to offer for legislation.
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 commit fully to seeking input from educators and parents of public school students. The retired educators, present educators, and parents for public schools are organized in the community; with structured organizations. This is the population that will be advising me on education policies.
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? In the capacity of an elected official, I am accountable to my constituents. My community involvement and policy knowledge have prepared me to know the concerns and laws I must push for; for the constituents of District 63. The word “No” is powerful and must be shared when lobbyists and other legislative leaders are pushing a bill contradictory/will hurt my constituent base. In the words of Shirley Chisholm – “Unbought and Unbossed.”