Senate District 26: Candidate Q&A
Candidates for this office were offered a questionnaire on education issues by The Parents’ Campaign.
1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I attended and graduated from North Jackson Elementary School and Powell Middle School. Also, I attended Callaway High School. I consider myself to be a product of public schools. I am a big supporter of Jackson Public Schools, mentor in the schools and frequently return as a guest speaker. My experience in public schools shaped who I am as a person, and gave me an understanding of how important it is to invest in public 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 will introduce legislation and support legislation to fully fund MAEP. However, MAEP should only be the base. MAEP was designed to provide more funding for counties with lower property tax revenues and address the inequity. Still, we should allocate more than MAEP mandates and make a deliberate effort to invest in public education. We must ensure that no matter a child’s background or location, they have the opportunity to succeed and achieve academic excellence with the resources necessary to make it happen.
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 given too many tax breaks to large out of state corporations that placed our state budget in dire straits. We have to deal with what will be a loss of more than $700 million in revenue from the more than 50 tax cuts passed during the last eight sessions. Within the past few years the Governor has been forced to make mid-year budget cuts. We need to repeal those tax breaks so we can have the revenue necessary to make critical investments and allocations. I will support or introduce legislation to do just that.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? I oppose vouchers or any public dollars being allocated for anything other than public schools. Our public education system is already underfunded and needs all the resources at its disposal to be able to offer the quality education our children deserve.
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. Without question our special education services should be funded each and every year. I will fight for more funding and will support or introduce legislation that provides the essential funding required.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? We should definitely provide early childhood education so that our children begin school ready to learn and not start from behind. From cradle to career we must invest in our children.
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? First, we can provide pay raises to our teachers. Second, we can provide more funding for after school programs, counselors and support personnel; early childhood education and pre-kindergarten for all; investment in the arts, libraries and learning centers. Many of the children in public schools are caught in a cycle of poverty. The solution is more economic opportunities for the entire community.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Absolutely. Education has to be a priority for our state. We will not be able to be competitive in our recruitment of the best teachers if we do not pay our teachers at least the southeastern average.
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, we need more educators in public service and if they are able to supplement their income with their hard-earned retirement then they should be able to do so without question.
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? Information is key. I will certainly seek advice and input from those most affected by any piece of legislation. I have many teachers, principals, and administrators across this state that I consider friends and I will lean on them for advice. I will also conduct regular legislative forums and panel discussions in order to inform myself and my constituents.
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 give in to any pressure and will vote my principles and convictions and what is best for the constituents of District 26 and the state of Mississippi. I will listen to facts and hear positions, but I will not be pressured to make a vote.