Senate District 1: 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? My wife and I both graduated from public schools as did our three children. We both have been active with our children’s schools. My wife has helped with the PTO along with proctoring for state tests.
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. I have been a consistent supporter of full funding for the MAEP. I voted for the teacher pay raise that passed the legislature this year, and I voted for the larger teacher pay raise that did not pass. The Desoto County Schools in my Senate district are some of the best schools in our state and I support more resources to make these schools even better.
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? Mississippi has plenty of revenue. Unfortunately, some fail to make public education a priority. Eight years ago, I defeated an incumbent Senator on the promise of doing more for our great Desoto County Schools. I continue to be a strong advocate for better schools, more financial resources, and higher pay for our teachers.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? I’ve been a consistent opponent of vouchers. I believe we can improve education by focusing on our public schools, not directing taxpayer dollars to an alternative system.
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 support strong accountability measures anytime taxpayer dollars are spent whether it’s on education, law enforcement, highways, or any other area. Voucher schools should be held accountable using the same measures as our public schools.
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 is an area of increasing importance and, like other aspects of public education, should be fully funded by the State of Mississippi.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? I am open to spending more resources on pre-K but, again, accountability is critical. I want to see that Mississippi taxpayers are getting our money’s worth when limited resources are spent in this area.
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? As a small business owner, I believe the best path to alleviating various family obstacles for our children is creating an environment where the private sector flourishes. I have been a consistent vote for lower taxes and less red tape on small businesses. These steps make Mississippi more competitive with our neighbors, attract businesses here from other areas, and help Mississippi businesses grow and hire more workers. A business-friendly climate not only grows our job base, but it also results in higher wages for all Mississippi workers. These actions will lift families out of poverty and place children in a better position to succeed in school and in life.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes. As a Senator from Desoto County, I understand the challenge our school system faces in retaining teachers when schools in Tennessee offer significantly higher salaries. I support a significant pay increase for our teachers and will support higher pay for teaching assistants also.
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 support permitting retired state employees to draw their pension while serving in the Legislature.
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 appreciate input from my superintendent, school board members, teachers, and parents on issues of importance in public 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? I have a demonstrated track record of voting my conscience and voting for my community. I am not swayed by leadership as evidenced by my votes against vouchers and for a larger teacher pay raise.