Senate District 33: 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? I am a product of Mississippi public schools, having graduated from Forest High School in 1971. My wife, the former Janet Harris, is a 1973 graduate of Quitman High School. We have no children but my nephews and niece are all public school graduates. Several of my great nieces and a great nephew currently attend Petal Public Schools.
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, as approved by the MS Legislature several years ago. I do realize that the economy and other factors that may cause a decrease in revenue, should be considered as part of the process. However, I would prefer that funding for education and state employees should be a top priority at the start of each legislative session.
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? By making sure that we make it a top priority to fund services needed for all Mississippians. We need to make sure that all state agencies are held accountable for their spending, and continue to look at ways to trim budgets without trimming services. Each department should submit an annual plan to address efficiency in state government. By working together, we can make it happen!
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Yes! Public funds should be used for public schools. Period!
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! Accountability is most important in providing a quality education.
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. Again, funding for public education, including services for special needs students, should be a top priority each year. We will accomplish full funding by documenting and publicizing services that are needed to help special needs students. These students are some of the brightest in the state and we should do all we can to help them succeed in life.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes. Quality education should start with the children of MS!
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? We need to look at possibly limiting the amount of state testing, which will no doubt help lower the stress level of students, teachers, staff and administrators, and will also save a lot of money. We should also provide more counselors who are trained to help students with mental health issues.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes. It is a shame that teachers in neighboring states make more money than our own! We must provide funding to not only hire qualified instructors but to keep them as well. Local communities must also be involved in providing support and encouragement for our teachers. We must work together for our schools to be successful.
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 would not have considered running for State Senate if I could not receive retirement benefits 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? Of course! I would not make a decision on any topic without first receiving information, etc., from those who have knowledge and experience in that specific area. I would very much appreciate and welcome input from all school personnel, board members, parents and community leaders. Again, we can be successful if we all work together!
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 always vote my conscience…and make decisions on what I think is best for my district and its people. For me, serving as a State Senator is about Public Service, which means just that…PUBLIC SERVICE. I will work for the people…they are my boss…and I will always strive to do what is right. And I do not care who gets the credit…Republicans…Democrats….or Independents. It does not matter. We must all work together! Let’s make it happen!