Senate District 36: 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 was educated in the K-12 public schools. For 29 years, I was employed by the public schools in Mississippi as a Social Science classroom teacher in Claiborne, Hinds and Copiah counties. I later partnered with the Copiah County School District as the academic manager of the Mississippi Job Corps Center to offer career training to students in that District. My children were all educated in the public school system and my wife worked for 32 years as a science teacher in the K-12 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. I have always advocated for a fully-funded MAEP. I am willing to sponsor or co-sponsor and vote for legislation regarding the funding of MAEP.
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 will advocate through colleagues, and I will sponsor, or co-sponsor legislation that will provide services for all Mississippi citizens that will help them to lead productive lives.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? I will oppose any legislation that takes funds from public schools to support any other type of schooling. I believe that a strong public school is necessary to provide learning opportunities for all citizens. Any diversion of these funds will dilute the strength and productivity of public education and its mission.
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? If a K-12 school receives taxpayer dollars, it should be held to the same accountability measures for quality education as all other publicly-funded 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. Yes, Mississippi students with disabilities should receive services to address their needs, and these services should be funded in the public schools every year. I will support legislation that addresses this by either sponsoring, co-sponsoring or voting on legislation to accomplish this.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? I believe that high quality early childhood education for all is very much a part of alleviating an illiterate citizenry, and this will reduce poverty. A literate citizenry creates employment opportunities with a sustained income which translates to a higher quality of life and living. Everyone deserves this opportunity.
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? I am willing to sponsor or co-sponsor legislation that addresses all of the needs of Mississippi students. In my own community, I am aware of issues that prevent students from learning in the classroom. I hope to join with other lawmakers to alleviate the problems that our children face across our state.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? I support raising teacher salaries to that of, or above, our neighboring states. I know from experience that many of our teachers have to take a second job to supplement their income, just to ensure that their bills are paid. I experienced this as a public school teacher myself. I fully support our educators and I am willing to sponsor or co-sponsor legislation that will make life easier for Mississippi 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? I support retired teachers and other retired state employees drawing their retirement while serving in the Legislature. Having served in these various capacities, their experiences are invaluable to the decision-making process.
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 commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents and parents of public school students in my district to advise me regarding legislation on education policies. I know the importance of involving stakeholders in this important process that will affect the lives of Mississippians. I am open to any discussion that will help my colleagues and me make the best informed decisions.
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 always been a listener. Currently, when legislation is before me, I call members of my constituency that deal directly with these issues for their opinion before making a decision. I believe that the individuals who are the ground soldiers can provide valuable insight regarding issues that affect their communities.