Senate District 48: 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 have enormous admiration and gratitude for our public schools. I have teachers throughout my family, and my son has worked as a coach and teacher. As a child, my home life was very dysfunctional so I couldn’t wait to get to school each day. My public school teachers saved me, in many ways.
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. It should almost go without saying that MAEP should be fully funded first thing every legislative session. Then and only then other priorities could be budgeted, and later any proposed tax cuts and other extraneous expenditures could be considered.
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? 1) I would establish a moratorium on tax cuts for corporate entities and 2) I would ask PEER to advise legislators on the status of current real tax revenues, using actual figures and 3) I would allow and encourage our State Economist to provide the Legislature with factual information, like a realistic revenue estimate. If it sounds like I’m skeptical about information the current leaders have put out, it’s because I am.
4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? I am opposed to vouchers for a litany of reasons. I cannot imagine anything that could change my mind on this issue. On the Coast, the majority of people appreciate the results of investing in our public schools, from Pass Christian to Ocean Springs. A community prospers or declines in proportion to it’s participation in our public school 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? All taxpayer dollars should be accounted for. The Legislature should phase out funding for other entities. That would solve the accountability problems, and in my opinion that’s the best way to do it.
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. Of course it is a drain on most public schools to provide special education services without additional funds for those services. Right now is a bad time in our country to look to federal funding for much of anything. I believe that will change if the voters manage to elect a new President in 2020.
7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes, I do. Early childhood education could be the great equalizer for children across our state. When children are penalized for lack of preparation for their K-12 experience, our entire population is penalized.
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? Support for early childhood assistance is crucial. Unfortunately the current majority in the Legislature opposes investment in our youngest citizens. They don’t understand how important it is. I would like to see more funding non-profit organizations like Annie E. Casey and their Kids Count project.
9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes! I’m embarrassed for the Legislature’s failure to pay our teachers or staff properly. I believe this is in large part due to sexism among legislators (mostly male), while teachers (mostly female) endure disregard and contempt.
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 hope we settled this during the last legislative session, but I suppose new legislation could change this. Again, I must point to the so-called legislative leadership who prefer to exclude certain knowledgeable candidates from public office. I certainly believe retirees should be able to serve and of course should be able to draw retirement. They earned it.
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? This is the time for me to confess that education policy is not my area of expertise. I depend heavily on guidance from my colleagues like Senator David Blount and Representative Sonya Williams-Barnes for their recommendations on education policy.
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 20 year voting record that shows I do not respond well to pressure tactics. It’s been a real long time since anyone tried to threaten me or my vote.