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Election 2019: Candidate Q&A HD70 - The Parents Campaign

House of Representatives District 70: 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.

General Election Candidate (Unopposed):   William “Bo” Brown 

 William “Bo” Brown     WINNER

NO RESPONSE


 Tammy Cotton (defeated in primary)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I am a product of an excellent public school education and had a great K-12 experience. My son is also a product of public schools, where he graduated with a full scholarship to a 4 year Mississippi University.

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. My plans are to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate, newly elected officials in the administration and public advocates to continue to describe the plight of the 90% of Mississippi’s children who attend public schools without adequate access to textbooks, technology, subject area teachers and attend schools with crumbling infrastructure. I would let them know that as a result of the underfunding of education that students are exiting Mississippi public schools unable to compete with other students across the country. I will also use recent findings by the State Auditor as proof that we do have funding and that special interest groups whose services provide nothing of real value to Mississippi’s public schools and their students. Furthermore, these earmarks are being funneled to unintended recipients when they should go directly to public school districts that have been chronically underfunded for over a decade.

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 would support legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage and provide equal pay for women. I would also support legislation that would allow lower wage Mississippians to keep more of their tax dollars through an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in the form of an advance in their regular paychecks or yearly when filing their income taxes.

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 all voucher legislation. Diverting funds from public schools is crippling existing school districts one per pupil allotment at a time. School choice should never be funded by taxpayer money that is intended for public education and schools only.

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. Same funding, same standard, even though I find the overall practice of diverting per pupil cost to vouchers and charter schools should be amended too, as many public school students leave to attend charter schools only to return to their former public schools in the same school year they left without return of the per pupil expense diverted to the charter school.

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. Absolutely. By rolling back the the vast majority of special needs vouchers allocated to voucher programs and placing them back in public schools. I would also work with my colleagues to amend the lottery legislation re-allocating a portion of those funds to special education specifically.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes. High quality early childhood education ensures that children enter kindergarten and elementary school at grade level and not below their fellow classmates.

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? By allocating funds to address the mental stress being placed on teachers who see the plight of poverty, hunger, abuse, homelessness and other issues students enter the classroom with daily. Ensuring proper referral and case management for children and families that teachers identify as needing help the school district may not be able to provide. These services should be able to focus on making a student and if necessary, their family, whole by addressing all issues identified.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes. The $1,500 dollar increase given to teachers this past legislative session was shameful. It will result in Mississippi losing more teachers than it gains.

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. Just as any private employer would allow.

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? Public education advocacy organizations like yours, SPLC, Parents for Public Schools, Children’s Defense Fund and MS Association of Educators who are seen as experts in the field of public education and who I currently follow to stay abreast of the state of 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? By letting them know that I can’t/won’t be moved by expensive receptions, conferences, dinners, trips and other “carrots” that may be used as bait to distract me from my responsibility and role as a State Legislator who has been elected because of my strong commitment to public education.


 Kathy Sykes (Incumbent, defeated in primary runoff)

» See Voting Record

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I am a product of Jackson Public Schools as well as my son. Public schools gave me a solid foundation for academic achievement. While there are always areas where improvement is needed, I fully support Public Schools.

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, it should be funded yearly. I will co-sponsor legislation to fully fund MAEP as I have done in the past. We need to fully fund it for a number of years so that we will have data to determine whether or not the formula has a positive impact on 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? We need to look at how the revenue is being spent to make sure that we are not wasting funds and that we are directing funds to areas that will be less costly and the best use. We need to invest in education and job readiness on the front end, instead of prisons and incarceration on the back end. I supported the State Lottery that will provide extra funding for Infrastructure and Education.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? I am on record opposing vouchers. While I support parents having options in education, I believe that Public Funds should be for 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 agree that if a school receives taxpayer dollars it should be mandatory for them to be subject to the same testing and accountability standards.

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. Special Education Services have been provided by public schools for decades. They are doing a great job with limited funding and I support legislation for full funding.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? The early years are the most important years because this is where the foundation for student academic success begins. Early Childhood Education should be available to all children in this State regardless of income.

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 need to take an wholistic approach to education. We need Counselors and Social Workers in schools for students and their families. We need to expand the safety net for families that need pubic assistance.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? I support increasing pay for teachers and assistants to the Southeastern Average. If our State Superintendent can be the highest paid in the country, our teachers should at least be at the avg. of surrounding states.

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. I co-sponsored the bill to allow this.

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? Other states have dedicated staffers, we do not. I rely on educators, organizations, family and friends to help me with bills. I introduced a bill last session that I received input on from the JPS Interim Superintendent. The Parent’s Campaign, AFT, MAE, ACLU, Human Services Coalition and Southern Echo have all helped me with bills.

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 campaign Motto is, “Finding Common Ground for the Common Good” and that is always a goal, however, in a district as diverse as mine, I realize that you can not please everyone all the time.

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