user avatar
Dawn Richardson
Texas House District 54



Retired educator


PO Box 690523, Killeen, TX, 76549

Additional Information

Candidate Survey Responses


1. If elected, what are your top priorities for public education?

Fully funded public education, stopping vouchers, pay increase for teachers and support staff, increase in the COLA for retired teachers, funding the new safety mandate of having an armed safety officer on every campus,

2. Voucher programs take many forms (tax credits, scholarships, education savings accounts, etc.) and are either universal or aimed at specific subpopulations (special education students, low-income students, students attending schools with poor A-F accountability ratings, etc.). Would you vote to create a voucher program of any type to pay for students to attend non-public K-12 schools, such as private or home schools?

No as a general rule. Public funds can already be requested for specialized programs or assistance that a student needs that is not offered in their school. The majority of private schools are religious and many would not accept or keep students whose belief systems or lifestyles are not in line with theirs. Private schools do not have to follow the state guidelines and therefore the state would have no control over how tax payer funds are being used.

3. In 2023, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 3 requiring a number of new school safety measures. However, many believe the Legislature did not adequately increase funding to cover the cost of the mandates in HB 3 or other locally adopted school safety measures. How would you work to make schools safer and ensure such initiatives are properly funded?

Absolutely! Schools should be given the funds to update all entrances with built in scanning devices to make sure that weapons are not entering the schools. Academic advisors should be hired so that counselors can actually counsel, and no counselor should have more that 250 students to service. The mandate should be fully funded by the state. If the state is going to make it mandatory, new funds should be sent to the districts to cover all costs, including benefits, of hiring and training the new personnel

4. Despite a record-breaking surplus of $38 billion during the 2023 legislative session, school funding formulas were not increased to keep pace with inflation since they were last adjusted in 2019. Do you believe Texas public schools should receive additional funding? If so, how should the state pay for it?

The public school system has not received a raise per pupil in ten years. We spend more on incarceration than we do our schools. We need to be more proactive and spend more of the budget on schools and programs, reducing class size at all levels, offering more vocational and technical courses. The more we focus on our young people, the greater the chance of success in school and that should translate into needing less jail space and jailers. The cost savings should be passed on to the school systems.

5. Texas has faced growing teacher shortages in recent years, with many schools hiring uncertified teachers to fill the gaps. How would you work to ensure Texas public schools have an adequate number of trained and certified teachers?

The first thing that needs to be done is raising the pay by $7000 to reach the national average. Then a COLA should be built in to adjust for inflation along the same lines as Social Security does. If people can take their skills and certifications elsewhere for better pay, they will. Also young people with certifications cannot afford to live in the communities that they are teaching in, even with a roommate. I sat and cried with a young teacher who was broken hearted that she had to leave her students because she and her teacher roommate could not pay the rent increase of $800. Rent subsidies, lower cost for health insurance, and affordable daycare will go a long way in recruiting and retaining qualified teachers. In Hawaii, teachers used to receive $1000 added to their pay for every 9 college credits above their degree. That would be an incentive to keep people current in their field.

6. Inadequate compensation hampers the recruitment and retention of high-quality educators. Do you support a state-funded across-the-board pay raise for all Texas educators?

I absolutely support it and it should be at least $7000 to bring Texas teachers in line with the National average.

7. The high cost of health insurance available to educators is a significant factor decreasing their take-home pay. How would you address the challenge of rising health care costs facing Texas educators and ensure access to affordable health care?

I think that all teachers now have access to TRS care and that is a good first step. The next would be to make health insurance truly be health insurance and should cover more of the out of pocket cost as well as have no co pays for well visits, check ups, vaccines, physicals, etc.

8. What do you feel is the proper role of standardized testing in the Texas public education system? For instance, should student test scores be used as a metric in determining teacher pay, school accountability ratings, evaluating teachers, measuring student progress, etc.?

Due to the fact that our children are facing so many challenges, the majority of which are not under a school's control, I do not feel that student test scores should be used to determine teacher pay. That is not fair to the teacher who has over 50% SPED students in class, while another may have all AP students. The test themselves no longer evaluate basic skills but are more like college entrance exams. Since every student has no plans to go to college, while we should teach like it to make sure that they have the opportunity to do so, standardized test need to get back to the level of testing functional skills that every student needs, whether they go into the world of work, military, vocational school, or college.

The tests should be evaluated to see if students are progressing from the level that they were at the year before and students new to the district should not have their scores counted in ratings for at least two years to give them time to be acclimated to a new system, new surroundings, and new educators.

The tests should be testing the same things adjusting for level of difficulty as students get older. In first grade, test on writing a simple sentence. By third it should be a full sentence and identify the parts, 8th grade should be a full paragraph with a topic sentence, body, and concluding one. By 10th, a one page essay based on a topic from their History class. By 12th, a persuasive argument paper. Basic skills, being expanded year after year and into a portfolio to track the progress in real time. Also you have something to send with the student if they transfer schools

9. In your opinion, what is the proper balance between accommodating an individual parent’s or student’s wishes and the taxpaying community’s interest in directing and maintaining an optimal educational environment for the student population as a whole?

As long as the wishes of the parent or student do not infringe on the learning environment of others, accommodations should be considered. When I was in the classroom, I had a student who only wanted to be in my room because of the learning environment. We worked it out that he would go to his class first, learn the lesson, and then come to my room to work on the assignment as long as he was quiet. Worked for both him, his parent, his other teachers, and myself. Now if the ask was could you bring my child home as they don't like riding the bus, or can you keep him overnight as I can't get there to pick him up, the answer would be a hard no. (real examples).

Our job is to educate. We must be fair and equitable, and must meet the educational needs of all students. For some, that might mean hiring another aide or tutor, might mean small group setting, quiet place to eat lunch, etc. All of those are great uses of tax payer funds and in the long run produce a functioning member of our society that will also be paying taxes .

10. Do you believe the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) should be maintained as a traditional defined-benefit pension plan for all future, current, and retired educators, or do you support converting TRS to a defined-contribution structure that is more like a 401(k) plan, in which future benefits are not guaranteed?

I strongly believe that TRS should be maintained. It is the reason that I and many of my colleagues stayed in education. I know too many folks who now wish that they had a pension as opposed to a 401K. Many employers complain about how young people are not loyal to a job anymore. They seem to forget that they are not loyal to the employee anymore. You can take a 401k with you and most do when they find a better paying job. They are not vested in a profession as educators become. TRS needs to stay in it's current form

11. State law allows educators and other public employees to voluntarily choose to join professional associations such as ATPE and have membership dues deducted from their paychecks at no cost to taxpayers. Do you support or oppose letting all public employees continue to exercise this right?

Absolutely! i know that my district had wanted to get rid of it saying it was costly due to the man hours needed to do it. However, that argument no longer holds thanks to automation and computers

Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey

I am running due to the harm that our governor, thanks to his mega donors, and legislature is doing to our schools. Vouchers is just another step in the process of dismantling our public schools. Education is a right that every citizen should have access to. Vouchers will in the long run, curtail that right in rural and urban ares for working class and poorer populations. We need to stop it before it gets in and I am asking for your support to get me to the legislature this Novemeber.