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1. If elected, what will your top priorities for public education be?
I'll start paying our teachers like the professionals they are with a $5,000 compensation or tuition reimbursement opportunity. I'll invest in public district and charter schools, not voucher programs. I'll build strong pre-K programs to improve graduation rates. I'll get serious about vocational training in high school for skilled trades, software programming and engineering. I'll support high-quality teacher training. I'll fulfill our state's promise to retired teachers by supporting a real cost of living adjustment.
2. Is there a need to increase state funding to meet the needs of our student population? If so, how would you recommend securing more revenue for public education?
We should fund education and fulfill the constitution. The legislature must ensure students get a solid and equitably funded education. Texas should lead other states. Our system is growing by about 50,000 students per year. State leaders must commit to investing in teachers, children and communities. We should increase the state share of education funding to 50%. Let's use part of the rainy day fund to start, while we work out the best way long-term. We should use lottery revenues that were supposed to be for education. That was the idea 25 years ago. We need to fulfill the promise we made to Texans over a decade ago.
3. Healthcare costs for educators have increased dramatically and outpaced the state's contributions, with many current and retired educators now paying more out of pocket than their counterparts in other states or in other professions. How would you address this crisis to ensure that active and retired educators have access to affordable healthcare?
The state must reliably support educators. It should actively work to keep contribution percentages consistent, so we can continue to innovate and keep healthcare affordable for educators, students, families and all Texans.
4. 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 plan that is more like a 401(k) plan, in which future benefits are not guaranteed?
It should be maintained. The TRS system has consistently outperformed the stability measures and the average gains of proposed defined contribution plans like 401Ks. The TRS system is the largest and most stable system of its kind. We cannot support enriching private entities with the life savings of those who committed their lives to educating our children.
5. What do you feel is the proper role of standardized testing in Texas's public education system? For instance, should student test scores be used for school accountability purposes, for evaluating teachers, for measuring the progress of students, etc.?
Measuring learning is responsible, but not if it's done by simplistic measures. We must find a way to assess students that sets a baseline and measures periodically for growth and the effects of teachers. Diagnostic screening at the start of the school year enables us to more accurately measure progress. We must know where a student starts, where they are at the middle of the year, and where they are at the end. Measuring children on one day in point in the school year on one timed exam after another doesn't tell us if a child has grown. It tells us where they are in that day. It doesn't accurately measure what they have learned or how far they have come. You can't standardize students, and you can't standardize tools to measure them. Every school and every district is different because of the unique student population. To accurately measure student and educator performance, we must account for everything that is happening in the schools and classrooms. Ultimately, we're trying to raise whole people. We are responsible in our homes, schools, places of worship and communities to raise people able to meet the demands of tomorrow.
6. Would you support a state-funded across-the-board pay raise for all Texas classroom teachers?
Our teachers deserve a $5,000 compensation or tuition reimbursement opportunity. Better pay. Better teachers. And, that makes smarter kids.
7. To what extent should student performance determine teacher pay?
No system reliably tells us about cumulative effects faculty and staff have on the growth and development of all students in a campus or district. We must account for performance, but the system must be fair.
8. Would you support legislation to create any type of voucher, tax credit, scholarship, education savings account, or other program aimed at paying for students, including any subpopulation of students, to attend non-public K-12 schools, such as private or home schools?
Vouchers, as proposed in previous legislative proposals, would allow profiteering on the backs of students and communities that can least afford it. They do not fulfill promised outcomes and often harm students. This is unfair to people of Texas. Studies show that these programs do not fulfill promised outcomes and often harm students. Revenues for public education should stay in public education. Revenues for public education are not by private groups for private groups, they are for the advancement of the public. Everyone: the elderly couple, the single young person, the wealthy family and the poor family all pay into a system because it is designed to help the community.
9. State law allows educators and other public employees to voluntarily choose to join professional associations like ATPE and have membership dues deducted from their paychecks at no cost to taxpayers. Do you support or oppose letting public employees use payroll deduction for their membership dues?
I support letting public employees to use payroll deduction for membership dues.
10. Current law allows school districts with accountability ratings of "C" or better to become Districts of Innovation (DOIs) and exempt themselves from many state statutes, such as elementary school class-size limits, requirements for hiring certified teachers, and more. Would you recommend any changes to the criteria for becoming a DOI? Would you recommend placing any limitations on the state laws that can be waived by DOIs?
Statutes are put in place to ensure all students get an excellent education. Research shows that optimal development occurs when educators give individual students attention that matches their needs. Class-size limits are an attempt to ensure students get the attention they merit. A "C" or "average" school is not—by definition—one that excels. We need to ask more of our schools before we label them Districts of Innovation. What they require more than the ability to dispense with statues is the attention and funding required to turn them into excellent schools. But even excellent schools that we deem Districts of Innovation cannot have carte blanche to do what they will. As governor, I will promote responsible stewardship of our school systems to determine if any state laws should be waived. Excellence should not mean exemption from laws.
11. What steps would you take to increase the participation of educators in education-related policymaking decisions?
I would meet regularly with educators, teachers, school boards, parents and school boards and I would have a liaison in my office dedicated to communicating with these groups.
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