House of Representatives District 98: 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.
Tasha Dillon (defeated in primary)
1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I am a proud, publicly-educated candidate. As a contributing citizen from a family of entrepreneurs, I know that public education works.
Since the 1990’s I have led community and church efforts that have provided after-school safe places for latch-key students, tutorial services, and annual back-to-school events whereby students receive school supplies and encouragement. I have personally tutored on a pro bono basis in an effort to assist children who cannot afford tutoring services.
I began a scholarship program that has helped high school graduates matriculate into college. I have gathered volunteers to fix “care boxes” for students who needed aide.
In addition to serving as an advisory board member for the McComb High School, a community advisor for the McComb School District communities, a liaison between the City of McComb (former employer) and the school district, I have volunteered with planning and executing events and activities. I have been a guest speaker, a parent liaison, and supporter throughout local school districts.
I was the District 4 Coordinator for Better Schools, Better Jobs, honored to help get the initiative on the ballot.
I believe in supporting and preserving PUBLIC education and have worked hands-on lending my voice and actions to help do so. As a generational beneficiary of public schools, I appreciate the value of diverse academic and extracurricular engagement and learning. It has been an asset to my personal and professional life, having gained lifelong friendships and connections that have introduced me to a broader community.
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 have, without hesitation, distinctively, and consistently voiced that I support fully funding MAEP, our public education program.
Partnering with and supporting organizations and agencies that support public education is a priority. I also believe we can better invest / redirect corrections dollars given to private prisons, toward our public educational programs. Lottery and gaming revenue can be appropriated for education. Also, corporate tax credits should come with an encouragement to have a return of interest toward education.
My voice and my vote will reflect support of fully funding MAEP. I will use my diplomatic skills to reach across party lines in an effort to open dialog with fellow legislators about the importance of supporting our Mississippi schools.
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 know that better schools equate to better jobs. Our educational system’s success is essential for economic growth. Industry attraction, promotion, and expansion are results of a growing society. Economic development and tourism are tools that positively impact local economies and thus state revenue. I will stand on the front line for more jobs and promote vocational and skills training in local high schools.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Yes. The vouchers reduce resources which should be directed to our already underfunded public schools. Sending our schools’ dollars away drains our local public schools of the tools needed to execute successful teaching.
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 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. You could pursue full funding with a combination of efforts such as using lottery and or gaming funds, decreasing funding to the private companies that continue to find new ways to overly test our students, and or decreasing the amount of money appropriated to private prisons.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes, absolutely.
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? Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships. Partnering with organizations and agencies that have the expertise and resources to help alleviate these problems will be a step to take in reducing such difficulties. From housing to nutrition to health screening and job placement, every resource is a key to better solutions.
Children who lack basic resources – proper nourishment, access to technology after school, lesson / homework support at home – have a harder time functioning properly at school.
Training of in-school resource staff – counselors, nurses, and other support staff- will add a layer of intervention, as well. Stable learning environments with quality, caring educators in the classrooms will create an environment for K-12 students to confidently learn.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes, I most certainly do. We NEED competitive salaries for teachers (with pay raise timeliness considered) and attractive pay for teacher assistants. We need incentivized packages to attract and retain 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. When you invest the time and earn the right to retire, you have gained the privilege of those benefits. Choosing to become a public servant should not be punished. Though, considering a conversation to fully understand the impact of receiving benefits during session is reasonable.
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, seeking such advice is wise. Getting an understanding of the impact from various viewpoints is an asset. I will additionally seek input from retired educators and those who I know outside of our local districts and the State. I also look forward to working with The Parents’ Campaign and MAE.
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 am a principled person and integrity is imperative. As a public servant, it is a priority to represent the people’s will. This service is about responding to the values of my district’s constituents who have entrusted me to do the right thing and make decisions that best serve our families and children. My record reflects that I owe no favors and am not bound to do anything more than serve and represent the people of District 98. This is about taking the community’s voice to the Capitol and, being an invested citizen of District 98, there is no selling out when it comes to our best interest or otherwise. When it’s right, I will fight for the people. TashaDillonForMS.com