user avatar
Rachel Mello
Texas Senate District 8






Additional Information

Candidate Survey Responses


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

My top priority for public education is to allocate funding at appropriate levels to meet the current needs of students and schools based on shortfalls resulting from rampant inflation and unfunded and underfunded mandates.

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?

I do not support voucher programs in any form. There are extremely limited circumstances in which a special education student's needs exceed the resources available through the local public school, and there are already mechanisms in place to address those needs on a case by case basis at the local level.

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?

The Legislature should allocate adequate funding to address the real costs of safety related mandates.

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?

Texas public schools should receive additional funding from the budget surplus.

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?

Educators are highly educated and credentialed professionals, but the pay and level of respect for the profession does not align with this. I currently serve as a teacher mentor and would like to see these types of programs expanded with compensation so that novice teachers can have the support that they need to be successful in the classroom.

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 support a state-funded across-the-board pay raise for all Texas educators and support staff. Schools are in desperate need of paraprofessionals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, etc. All of these roles are vital to the success of our public schools. When they are not filled, staff is overworked and students suffer.

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?

The ongoing exposure to COVID during the pandemic as a direct result of state policies related to precautions and safety measures implemented at the local level and the insistence on reopening school buildings to in-person classes prior to teacher eligibility for vaccines led to an increase in illness and death among school staff. Because of the way group insurance works, this directly impacted the cost of health care for staff who have remained in the profession and continue to utilize district benefits. Since we still do not know what long term effects of COVID may be and exposure is ongoing, it is my position that ANY staff member that worked in a school district in any in-person capacity from March 2020 to the end of the 2021-2022 school year should have 100% of their health insurance premiums paid by the state.

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 should not be tied to teacher pay or evaluations or school accountability. Regular standardized testing does provide useful metrics for determining student progress, especially as it relates to at-risk sub-populations and how they are comparing to their peers in the same classroom, grade level, campus, and district. Standardized testing in the current format of STAAR provides very little in the way of benefits for staff or students and comes at inordinate expense to the state.

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?

Reasonable efforts should be made to accommodate individuals as long as their requests do not infringe on the rights of others. For example, if a parent doesn't want their student to have access to certain books, that can be accommodated without completely removing material from the school library. One parent, or a few, should not be able to dictate to the entire community what is and is not allowed.

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?

TRS should be maintained as a defined-benefit pension plan. Due to the impacts of the Windfall Elimination Provision on teachers' ability to access benefits earned through Social Security, it is extremely important to safeguard TRS and it's guaranteed benefits as an incentive and recruitment tool.

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?

Yes, public employees should continue to have the right to have their association dues voluntarily deducted from their paychecks at no cost to taxpayers.

Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey

No additional comments