Texans for Public Education – House/Senate Candidate Questions

1. Some politicians love blasting schools for being “broken” because it makes for a good sound bite. In your opinion, what, if anything, is “broken” and how would you fix it?

I don’t think public education in Texas is “broken” but I do believe it could use some help. HB 3 was a pretty good start but the legislation is not on a long term solid economic foundation. The state needs to secure and enhance its financial commitment to public education. Texas should never fail to fund less than 50% of public education and 60% would be more reasonable. While I understand it is not specifically on point I also believe the state should recognize and encourage allied organizations like Pastors for Texas Children and others that support teachers and administrators in support of students

2. What would you say are your top 3 priorities when it comes to public education?

To be sure our schools, administrators, educators and support staff have the tools they need to be sure every Texas child is given the opportunity to achieve his or her God given potential.

To expand and strengthen partnerships between public schools and community colleges, corporate entities that award certifications and labor unions apprenticeships to shorten the distance between high school graduates and degrees or careers.

Fairly and adequately compensate our educators, administrators and support staff.

3. How do you feel about the issue of school funding? Should it increase, decrease, or stay the same?

School funding should be increased and secured.

4. Piggybacking off of the previous question, if you support an increase in school funding, where would you find the money?

There might be other options but one thing that should absolutely occur is an alteration of the “Equal and Uniform” clause in Texas property appraisal guidelines. This law should be changed to restore the balance between individual property owners, small business and larger corporate property owners. The ability of corporate owners to take advantage of property comparisons under this clause is resulting in both a substantial revenue shortfall and a disproportionate burden being placed on small business and individual property owners. We should also reconsider the state’s investment in areas that are primarily federal responsibility such as borders security.

5. In what, if any, circumstances would you support the use of public funds (tax dollars) for private/charter schools (vouchers/tax credits, scholarships)?

I understand that some open enrollment charter schools are operating in coordination with some ISDs and some are basically ingrained in the system at this point. Having said that I am ardently opposed to vouchers and generally opposed to the use of education tax dollars for any mechanism other than public education. I have too many reasons to go into here.

6. Do you support the STAAR test in its current form? If so, what do you like? If not, what would you change?

I oppose STAAR in its current form. It’s too expensive, takes too much time from everyone involved (students, educators and administrators), and has entirely too much weight on it. Standardized tests should be a tool with the metrics being used to better understand

methodologies available to assist specific students or teachers but they should not be career changers.

7. With regard to STAAR testing, do you think it should be the primary measure to determine advancement/graduation or do you support IGCs/determination by teachers, staff and parents?

I do not think the STAAR test should be the primary measure to determine advancement and I do support Individual Graduation Committees.

8. What are your thoughts on IGC committees? Would you support ending the sunset date for these committees?

Yes, I would support maintaining IGCs as an option.

9. What makes A-F an effective or ineffective evaluation tool for campuses?

I do not believe A-F grading is an effective evaluation tool and I sincerely doubt that many of the legislators who support this system have really reviewed and understand the implementation methodologies. The level of assumptions and extrapolations employed in the effort to generate a single valid comparison among situations that virtually can’t be compared are mind numbing. There has to be a better way.

10. How do you feel about “merit pay” – that is, teacher pay being tied to STAAR scores, student performance, or a series of extra tasks?

I think it is reasonable for individual districts to reward educators who displays outstanding effort but I believe the concept of “merit pay” with included criteria introduces an element of competition into an environment that should reward cooperation and collaboration.

11. Do you support class size caps? Should districts be allowed to get waivers for these caps?

Yes. I support hard caps on class sizes particularly in lower grades. Virtually every study shows that individual instruction is directly related to a student’s development. I understand that population growth and other factors have on occasion forced districts to request temporary waivers but they should be just that—temporary.

12. How would you attract and retain the best teachers (This would include pay, benefits, job security)? How do you pay for these benefits?

We should reward service and loyalty. If we want to keep dedicated educators we have to fairly compensate them. We should maintain an above average floor salary that includes annual increases based on experience and we should fund a larger share of teacher health care at the state level. We should also continue to allow dues checkoffs for teachers associations. I outlined the funding method in question number 4.

13. How often do you believe retired teachers should get a cost of living increase?

Optimally retired teachers should receive an annual COLA but at the very least they should get one every other year.

14. What would you do about the rising costs in TRS Care for retirees?

The state contribution to TRS Care should be indexed to the rising cost of health care or a reasonable percentage of those costs and increased accordingly. The TRS Care contribution formula for the state, districts and active members is driven by teacher salaries. When salaries are generally increasing by about 2% and health care costs are growing by around 7% the shortfall is passed on to retirees in premium increases. Indexing the state contribution to health care costs would at least mitigate the problem.

15. Do you support keeping TRS as a defined benefit plan, or changing it to a 401(k) style plan? Why?

A believe the defined benefit plan is safer for the retiree and should be maintained.

16. Texans for Public Education, along with other grassroots organizations, have announced the #25×25 challenge for the legislature. This initiative challenges the legislature to move Texas to 25th in the nation in expenditures per student by the year 2025. The thought is that asking to be number one may not be attainable in that time span, but at least meeting the national average should be. Will you commit to working toward this challenge and putting Texas on a path to be 25th in the nation in expenditures per student by the year 2025?

Yes. As Texans we take a lot of pride in our state. We’re proud of our size, our economy, our sports teams, our opportunities our pretty much everything. If we display that same pride in our schools, our kids and our future we ought to at least be able to ramp up to average.

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