House of Representatives District 75: 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? Graduated from Morton High School, volunteer as a proctor and active with our public schools by volunteering where needed, meet with teachers and administrators for input about public education policy, and I read to students.
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, we have the money to fully fund our schools, but we just haven’t had the political courage to do it. I have supported this every year since I’ve been elected to fully fund MAEP, but we haven’t had the votes to help us get it done. When we underfund our schools, our schools and students suffer. It also makes our schools choose whether they raise taxes or cut needed programs.
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 have enough money for this to happen already, but our priorities have not been in the right places. It’s all about priorities on what our tax money is spent on.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Yes, we don’t even fund our public schools at an adequate level now. Why are we trying to start a new school system? If parents want to send their children to private schools or home school them, that’s their business. I just don’t agree with sending public dollars to fund them.
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, all guidelines should be the same. I have advocated from the House floor for that, if Charter Schools are so great, why don’t we give our public schools the same flexibility and freedoms.
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. We underfund our Special Education services every year at around $30 million dollars a year. This should be made the first priority each year of the Education budget. It’s just a matter of doing this and making this a priority. One thing we could do is look at all the money that we are wasting on all the excessive testing and apply the money from there.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes, I have seen first hand how Pre-K has had a major impact on a child’s life. In one of the school districts I currently represent, we offer a couple of classes of Pre -K that’s funded through a federal grant. The children that are lucky enough to get in these classes benefit tremendously. I would love to see Pre-K fully implented across the State in all of our public schools. Once again it’s about priorities. I agree that Pre-K will benefit our students for years to come in their education if it were implemented.
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? There is no easy answer or solution to these problems. The answer to this question is the million dollar answer we are all looking for to help improve our state as a whole. It’s evident that a child that comes from a stress free environment without any problems and a supporting family is going to perform better. I don’t think that teachers or public schools have the answer to this problem by themselves or can correct all of these problems, but if we can make sure that our schools have the resources they need, it’s a start. A lot of these answers come from starting at home, and so many of our children just don’t have the support they need at home.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes, My voting record proves that. I have always supported meaningful pay raises for our teachers. I supported this year the $4,000 across the board raise and was so disappointed not to see it passed. All of the surrounding states are giving meaningful pay raises. If we want to keep our teachers, we have to pay them like the professionals they are and that they deserve.
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’m on the record for advocating for 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? Yes! I already do this and has already been my policy. Some politicians or wannabe politicians get their advice dealing with the education issues from Charter School and School Choice lobbyists. I get mine from parents, teachers, principals and superintendents that work in our public schools every day.
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 think my voting record speaks for itself. When I first was elected, I made the commitment to my constituents that I would always put the people of my district first in every decision that I make and every vote that I take. I also told them that I wouldn’t be a “YES” man and would never sell them out. I have lived up to that commitment and will continue to always put my district and constituents first over politics.