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Molly Cook
Texas Senate District 15





ER Nurse


PO Box 667238, Houston, TX, 77266

Additional Information

Advanced to a runoff for Texas Senate District 15 in the 2024 Democratic primary election.

Cook is also running in a special election scheduled for May 4, 2024, to serve the remainder of the unexpired term of former Sen. John Whitmire (D), who held this seat for 40 years until his resignation in late 2023.

Ran unsuccessfully for the same Texas Senate District 15 seat in the 2022 Democratic primary election. 

Candidate Survey Responses


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

I am committed to bottom-up planning and co-governance. I will always take my lead and set my priorities based on the priorities of the affected communities. Based on what I have heard from teachers, students, and unions like the AFT chapters in SD 15, Community Voices for Public Education (CVPE), the Charles Butt Foundation, and others, the three highest priorities are:

Increase state funding for public schools

Increase wages and pensions

Stop the privatization of public schools (charter expansions, vouchers, etc.)

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?


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?

School hardening measures are expensive, and experts suggest that they are largely ineffective. It is important to fund mental health services, keep nurses and licensed mental health professionals in schools, fund arts/sports programs that enrich the lives of children, and fund specialized education and programs that meet the needs of students who require additional support. I will advocate during budget season for increased funding to the programs supported by data that teachers, experts, and advocates deem as priorities. I will also use my platform to organize statewide and educate the Texas public about which measures work to keep kids and communities safe and which initiatives deserve investment.

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?

Yes. A surplus provides an opportunity to fund one-time capital investments that are badly needed as well as setting up long-term funding for ongoing needs to maintain school infrastructure, provide raises and cost of living adjustments for defined benefit programs, and increase community access to broadband and educational programs. The state should be paying for a larger share of public school funding in order to satisfy the constitutional requirement and reduce reliance on local property taxes.

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?

Teaching needs to be a desirable and celebrated profession. To attract and retain qualified educators, I support:

Repealing HB 1842 that allowed for a state takeover

Enrollment based funding

Keeping nurses in schools so that teachers are not asked to act outside their scope

Direct raises

Raising the basic allotment and indexing it to inflation

Stopping the censorship of educators

Bolstering defined benefit plans

Reducing the reliance on high stakes testing and disassociating teacher pay from high stakes testing scores

Opposing charter school expansion in order to prioritize and fully fund public education

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?


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?

As a nurse, this is extremely important to me. I purchase my own healthcare coverage from the marketplace, and I know firsthand how unreasonably expensive and administratively burdensome coverage is. On a state level, expanding Medicaid is a pillar of my platform. I support a single-payer system nationwide as well. While working and once retired, teachers need access to affordable, high quality healthcare, and I am committed to woking toward that goal alongside educators and working class people in Texas.

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.?

Standardized testing is historically racially and economically biased to favor whiter wealthier kids. Testing can be used to evaluate the needs of students and the needs of classrooms and districts, but it should never determine school funding alone or be used to determine compensation for educators. Texas needs to take a holistic view of student progress and school performance to measure needs and assets, and higher need schools deserve more support to improve the outcomes for students.

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?

I am a nurse with a Master’s in Public Health, so I take a public health approach to policy. There is an ethical balance between individual autonomy and utilitarian community success. That balance needs to be determined in collaboration between affected community members, students, teachers, school staff, experts, and advocates. Individual autonomy cannot come at the expense of community health and safety. Ultimately, a higher emphasis must be placed on maintaining an optimal educational environment for the student population as a whole.

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?

Yes. As a nurse, I wish I were working toward a defined benefit plan eve. Moving away from defined benefit plans is a direct attack on the middle class and a direct attack on public health and community wellness. I will fight to protect defined benefit plans for teachers and work to make them the default again for other workers as well.

The TRS should be maintained as a traditional defined-benefit pension plan for all future, current, and retired educators.

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?


Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey

I recently learned the term co-governing: “a process where movements and community members aren’t only asked for their input, but are at the decision-making table, side by side, with decision-makers shaping legislation and policy.” I was grateful to gain verbiage for what I already felt in my heart is the style of leadership that is most effective and authentic to me. As an organizer, I often bemoan the separation between lawmakers and the unelected community leaders who are educating and organizing the public.

I know my own strength as an unelected, unpaid advocate, and I want to serve in coalition with the advocates, labor unions, organizers, and communities in SD 15 and across this great state. I want to uplift and promote grassroots organizing as a critical component of any change we want to see in Texas. It is not enough to vote the right way and pick up the phone when community leaders call. We need to strategize, prioritize, and fight together–to win. We all deserve co-governance.

Nurses are the most trusted profession year after year for a reason. Nursing is about trust and advocacy. I am proud to be a nurse, and I want to serve with the strength, compassion, and honesty that are central to my identity.