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Election 2019: Candidate Q&A SD13 - The Parents Campaign

Senate District 13: 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 Candidates:   B.C. Hammond   /   Sarita Simmons  WINNER

 B.C. Hammond

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I attended public schools. My daughter is presently a student in a Mississippi public school. My Aunt is a teacher and vice-principal at a public school in Tennessee. My grandfather retired from teaching at Shaw High School in Shaw, MS.

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 would advocate for the appropriation of enough money to fully fund K-12 public education by sponsoring, supporting, and voting for bills that include the money to fully fund K-12 public education.

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? As one senator in the caucus all you can do is promote policies that make Mississippi as fair, friendly, and appealing a place to live, work, and raise a family as possible (we are the HOSPITALITY STATE after all). I am convinced with the right leadership this state can attract young entrepreneurs and new business opportunities. However, a stable and secure small business climate is vital to the revitalization and future prosperity of Mississippi.

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 believe state government should focus on the state public schools. Vouchers eliminate public accountability, divert limited resources, attention, and commitment away from a strained system in the best circumstances.

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. In an ideal world I do. However, in the reality of scarce and limited resources I have to look at where resources can render the most good for the most people. I would definitely need to consult with specialist on this issue so that I can better understand the options available. By the grace of God I am not faced with the challenges associated with disabilities and therefore would want to get further information in forming policies regarding the funding of these programs.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? The earlier you introduce a child to educational opportunities the better. According to several studies including a recent one released by Harvard Graduate School of Education data shows that children who attend high quality ECE programs were less likely to be placed in special education, less likely to be retained a grade, and more likely to graduate than their peers who did not attend such programs.

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 step is to provide resources that enable success. Success to me would be where our public education system provides our children with a safe, supportive, and highly skilled environment. That delivers consistent positive interactions with adults and peers. Develops positive learning attributes, critical thinking skills, and reestablishes their belief in their own value and the value of learning.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? YES!

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.

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? Absolutely, I am well aware that I can not be an expert on all the issues that I will face as a member of the Mississippi Senate. I will engage with the people who work in the area everyday to get a better perspective and understanding on what they need for the citizens to get the results they want. Marie Schult with Knox County School District in Tennessee and Dr. Clifton Wingard from the Mississippi University for Women will be providing guidance on educational issues.

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’m just a citizen that has been on the wrong end of political deal making for too long. I’m watching my childhood hometown and surrounding areas fade away and wondering, will I lose the farm? Will I have to leave the Mississippi Delta in order to pursue my happiness? I am in this election for the right reasons. I do not have to be here; but I want to be here, and I want to leave this place and my daughter a little better off when I’m gone. I have given it all to Jesus Christ and when my time on earth is done and I’m in front of the Father, all I want is to hear the words, WELL DONE! MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT! None of them can give me that.

 

 Sarita Simmons     WINNER

NO RESPONSE


 John Alexander (defeated in primary runoff)

NO RESPONSE


 Tony Anderson (defeated in primary)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I am a ten (10) year veteran educator. I have taught Agriculture in three (3) different districts. I have been through the problems that we are well aware of that Mississippi is failing it’s residents by not providing adequate funding for education.

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 feel that MAEP should be funded every year. With adequate funding, school districts would not have to eliminate programs and would be able to provide the basic necessities and provide some enrichment opportunities to properly educate students. I think to much money is placed in incarceration and not enough in educating our students. I would have residents in District 13 and friends and relatives to contact the educational committee members by phone, email, and by letter to send a stern message that public education is important in Mississippi. I think of how the doctors of this state changed the legislators mind with their campaign to cap awards for lawsuits, if they can, we can too!!!

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 look at the revenues that are going to special interest, and work to eliminate these funds to those groups. I will disseminate the information so that the people can see what is happening and why funds that are needed elsewhere are not making it to the places that really need these funds. then I will work together with other Legislators to end these unfair practices and help to steer funds to areas that can help impact the whole State.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Yes!!! School choice is exactly what it says it is. A choice! The State provides a public education system that if it was fully funded would be one that could adequately educate any student that chooses to attend public schools. With this being said, if a parent chooses to send their child to any of the other aforementioned schools, they should pay whatever cost that are occurred for the tuition.

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 feel without accountability standards these private voucher schools are becoming what is known as “diploma mills” and the students are inadequately prepared for college or the workforce. It is a HUGE disservice to the students, the community, and other stakeholders who are depending on well-prepared students to replace an aging workforce.

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, I agree that special education needs to be fully funded every year. My thought on how to fully fund special education is to look at the number of students that receive special educational services. Provide them with a per student amount that is factual and that also includes and index spending measure that will automatically be factored in each year to provide adequate educational opportunities for them to have a chance at functioning on a level that they can provide for themselves and be very productive in our society.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes , I feel that this is a must! We just finished the first round of the 3rd Grade testing cycle. We see that in several counties in the State where little to no emphasis has been placed on providing an quality early education or the parents don’t have access to quality early education, the numbers are dismal and much help is needed to correct this problem that many of these communities are facing. We must include dollars in the MAEP budget that will help establish quality early childhood education in these counties that are struggling to properly educate this students. Then we must provide the necessary dollars after the programs have been established to maintain and adequately run the program for future successes for public education.

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? If legislators will fully fund education, it will help to eliminate the stress and poverty issues because it will lift some of the burden off of the parent. It will also provide more in depth educational opportunities that can address the students that have learning and psychological issues and all the parents to focus on providing a decent living wage to raise their children.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes, I feel that it is quite embarrassing that we can spend billions of dollars on “corporate welfare” for all these companies that come into our state with little to no interest of actually providing nothing more than salaries for the employees and maybe do a community project here and there. It’s a shame as a teacher, that after I pay my bills, by the end of the month I am robbing Peter to pay Paul. This factor, and this factor alone, has single handily caused the statewide teacher shortage. And if the salaries do not increase, there will be no end to the shortage. Also, teacher assistants are very important, but their salaries does not support how important they are to every school in our State. We must provide them with a livable wage so they can make ends meet.

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 feel that the retirees should not be punished for wanting to help with finding the solutions to some major problems that we are facing. I feel we need a change from the people that we send to Jackson. We need to send some people who are in touch and in tune with the communities in which they live. Retired teachers know the in’s and out’s of the communities because they have taught many generations of students in most cases and have a rapport that is better than most legislators who serve now will ever have in the communities in which they live.

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. Who is better to talk to? I will tell you upfront, by no means do I claim that I know everything about education. I can tell you in order to do the BEST for all the stakeholders involved, it takes everyone being invited to the table to develop a strategy that will be inclusive and works for the students, the parents, the schools, and the communities.

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 will NEVER betray the trust of the people who have given me the opportunity to be a voice for them. This is one thing that I have heard since I have began my campaign is that they have been betrayed and it hurts them. This is unacceptable and I will not have a problem with this. My mother taught me when I was growing up that there is only two ways… You are going to either do RIGHT or do WRONG! I choose to do RIGHT!!!

 

 Carl Brinkley (defeated in primary)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? Worked 17 years in education (public and university level); I am currently a Personnel Director for public school and my wife is a Special Education Director.

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 fully funded every year. I will cast my vote and try to convince the majority (33) republican Senators to see why it’s so important to do so. Also, we must show the public where this increase in monies is going to and it should go for the classroom instead of bloating admin salaries and numbers further. Education is improving in the state with graduation rates, early childhood, and 3rd grade gate and now, is the time to increase the funding to move MS off the bottom for good; I call for a $10,000 pay raise for all teachers; there should be a special fund and incentives for teachers to relocate to the Delta; extra money should go to expand TFA and MTC too. WE NEED MORE MATH AND science teachers. The state is turning to an ACADEMIC DESERT in some places, which is unacceptable.

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? Tax revenue is up and gaming revenues as well as internet tax revenues are increasing; a portion should be allocated to STEM projects and career tech school programs to meet the needs of industry in the state; education and workforce development needs more attention to produce a career ready workforce and align with industry employment needs; there is a low alignement and the state will never meet it’s full employment potential it aligns; all funding should be based on need as well as ROI. The best return on investment will come from placing more emphasis on a quality education. As a state senator, it will take some collaboration and negotiation across the isle and the best interest of children should always be what all decisions are based 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, I oppose. Public dollars should not be mingled with private ambitions.

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. Every dollar should be traceable and accounted for; dollars are scarce in Mississippi and one must show that being a good steward of such at all times. It’s called accountability; open the books and show where your priorities lie.

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. It 100% needs more educational funding or expanded with the rate of inflation; they are vulnerable and deserves the best education that will improve their quality of life and outcomes for employment. I will advocate a bill to increase funding for this population because special need children need a leg up and it shouldn’t be seen as another handout. This will be a top priority of mine and SPED teachers should be paid more since what’s required of them to teach and meet the needs of special needs children far exceed a regular classroom teacher; the stress and patience it takes to teach/train and ensure each student’s IEP is met while following the law is daunting and taxing.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes. It’s the Best dollar spent in the state’s budget; otherwise, there will be more children heading to Kindergarten not ready and the end result will be a decline in students failing the 3rd grade gate. This is where high achievement starts. There are still too many children not passing the 3rd grade gate, mainly because there aren’t enough exceptional 3rd grade teachers and because some parents take a PASSIVE interest in their child’s education. IF you get this right, the dividends will be seen 12 years later and the Mississippi economy wins. We need to Keep the momentum going and it makes Mississippi look like we are more than EXPERTS @ FAILURE.

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? It’s not the legislature job to fix all society ills. And teachers aren’t daycare workers. We need to stop blaming teachers for parent’s jobs and failure. We need to stop wasting money on poverty; it’s against GOD’s word; the poor will be us always; however, we are to help the poor. Parents need to teach their children values, principles, integrity, passion and respect and the state’s classroom will be better and turn to a place of inspiration and learning. We need to bring prayer back into the schools because a lot kids don’t know right and wrong, so they have to get it somewhere; they blame teachers for all that’s wrong, but rarely uplift and support them when they should. Legislatures need to pass laws to help teachers. The state need to start a lottery to send some of the best teachers to most needed place. There will always be obstacles and they are man-made and self-inflicted. Laws don’t make children behave; good parenting does; education gives a parent and children a way of poverty so education should be seen as a prize.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? YES. A $10,000 raise is called for. Teachers are underpaid for their work. They are the Mothers and Fathers of All Professions. Money don’t make a better teacher, but we need to attract more young people to the profession. Too, we need to pay retired teachers full pay instead of partial pay; they work just as hard and should be making full pay while retired; they go to neighboring states to work full time so we are losing valuable educational labor from such. Teachers are the most important assets to our economy and state and they deserve a VOICE. They are the least respected but carry the biggest burden in producing top quality product from sometime poor inputs (parenting and poverty) and they are still expected to turn rocks to wine. THEY ARE HEROES. THEY FIGHT ON THE FRONT LINES EVERYDAY and have kept a lot of young folks from the streets and prison; for this, these acts are un-measurable and provide long-term windfalls.

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! YES! BEST INVESTMENT IN THE STATE.

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. This is a must. I prefer a committee from each county from the district to look @ my bills. I will never introduce a bill from a LOBBY or take their money. I want to serve and not be beholden to anyone but the people I serve; I want to represent the teachers and parents. If we fix education, we can fix almost all the negatives in the state. 

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 will never sacrifice my integrity for a party or a donation. Too much of this has taken place already. We need servants not the self-serving. We are Near the Rubicon and our children are @ risk of being POORER THAN THEIR PARENTS. Legislators have stumbled in their duties and promises and are serving the highest contributor only. When the focus is placed back on the children, Mississippi’s future will be brighter. As soon as Mississippi realizes opportunities don’t go away, they just go somewhere else; it will make for the best place for a Quality of Life for all.

 

 Charles Modley (defeated in primary)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I have a positive experience with K-12 public schools. My children are currently enrolled in the public school system. I believe they are receiving a quality education as I am actively involved in their schools. I am serving on the Superintendent’s task force. I have served on the Policy Council for Head Start for three years, served as the Chairman on the Sunflower County United for Children organization. I am presently a member of the P-16 Council (local organization in Sunflower County that advocates on behalf of students). I also am active as a member of the PTO. I am involved so that I know the challenges and can offer solutions to my district.

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 that MAEP should be fully funded every year. In the year of 2014, I was part of the NAACP’s push to garner signatures to place Initiative 42 on the ballot for 2015. As a result of collecting over 5,000 signatures, the local NAACP branch I serve received the Medgar Evers Award for community service.

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? To ensure that state revenue is sufficient so that Mississippi’s citizens can lead productive lives, I will promote and advocate for more job creation. This will provide the living wage Mississipians need to be productive citizens and provide long term benefits for their families.

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 that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools. If we can’t afford to fully fund public education, then why would we send our resources elsewhere. We should take care of the most vulnerable first.

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 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. There should not be a separate measuring tool.

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. I believe that special education services in public schools should be fully funded every year. This is the most vulnerable of the student population and their needs should be met and addressed by securing funds that increase tax revenue so that these students become independent and are able to lead productive lives.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes, Mississippi should provide high quality early education childhood education statewide. Early childhood education provides opportunities and access to families that will benefit them for a lifetime. This will be instrumental to our students passing the third grade gates test.

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? Legislators should take immediate action to create jobs that will assist in alleviating the obstacles of stress, poverty, learning, and psychological problems for families. I also believe that more funds should be directed towards mental health agencies to address family stressors. If we can build families on a solid foundation, then we can eliminate some of the issues that we have in society.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? I strongly support raising teacher salaries to the level of our neighboring states and also raising the pay for teacher assistants.Our teachers are leaving our state to work for neighboring states that will provide a decent wage and allow them to contribute to their households.

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their retirement while serving in the Legislature? I believe that while retired persons are serving in the legislature, they should not receive their retirement. I believe this will motivate he/she to serve his/her constituents and seek to better their communities. There will be no motivation for a retired person already receiving benefits to work on behalf of their constituents. There will be no drive and no fight in them to serve.

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 will be committed to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in my district. I will seek counseling from these sources and other organizations such us as MS Teachers’ Association, One Voice, and MS NAACP.

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 will not be pressured into going against the will of the people I serve. I am first committed to my constituents. Every thriving community, rises and falls on leadership. It takes a strong leader to resist pressure. My community is not for sale.

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