Markowitz ran unsuccessfully in a Jan. 2020 special election runoff to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. John Zerwas, who resigned in 2019.
She was endorsed in the special election by Texas Parent PAC, a pro-public education organization that advocates for adequate and equitable funding of public schools, local control, teacher quality, and the prevention of private school vouchers.
Markowitz also ran unsuccessfully for SBOE District 7 in 2018.
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Responses to the 2020 ATPE Candidate Survey:
1. If elected, what will be your top priorities for public education?
While there are a number of issues with the state of the Texas education system, my three priorities would be revising our approach to standardized testing, improving the way we attract, train, and retain educators, and funding our public education system.
Primarily, I believe that we need to revise our approach to standardized testing. As stated above, we need to reduce the number of mandated standardized tests. Some districts reported that they spent 25% of the school year preparing for standardized tests, taking mock standardized tests, or taking EOC exams. Rather than spending so much time on testing, I believe that our teachers should be preparing our students for careers and college. We must also eliminate one-shot, high-stakes standardized tests that can detrimentally affect students, teachers, and institutions. We must remember that the job of the public school system is to prepare our students to succeed and serve our state and country. And life is not a standardized test.
We must also improve the way that we attract, train, and retain our educators. In Texas, over half of our educators do not hold the proper certification to teach in our public school system, and many of those that are certified have gone through alternative certification programs with little quality control. If we are to prepare our students for a successful future, we must have educators that are qualified and able to provide our students with a high-quality education. In order to attract these educators, we must advocate for improved teacher benefits and provide these educators with world-class professional development. We must also ensure that we are preparing our teachers to teach content, rather than teaching students how to pass a standardized test. And, of course, we must provide educators with quality continuing education programs; without such programs, our educators will not stay abreast of current educational trends.
We must also establish a way to fully fund our public education system. Due to the antiquated way we currently fund our schools, we must work towards a total overhaul of the education system to ensure that all students in all districts will receive equitable, high-quality education.
2. What are your recommendations for funding public education, including securing the necessary revenue to sustain the improvements made by House Bill 3 in 2019? Do you believe additional funding is needed?
I will you support the use of the state's Rainy Day Fund that has more than $11 billion available to help supply the short-term education funding that students need. However, we must develop a sustainable way in which to fund our public education system. Texas could redirect the billions of dollars each year spent on standardized testing by eliminating wasteful, high-stakes STAAR testing. Furthermore, Texas could implement a corporate tax rate that adequately funds our public schools and teachers. Currently, Texas is one of six states without a corporate tax rate, and the state is leaving billions of dollars of revenue on the table.
3. How would you address the challenge of rising healthcare costs facing Texas educators and ensure that active and retired educators have access to affordable healthcare?
I will you support increases in state contributions toward health insurance for active and retired school employees and funding mechanisms to enable those contributions to adjust for changes in health-care costs. For far too long, cost of living adjustments have been almost entirely eaten up by the skyrocketing cost of healthcare. My solution to this challenge is threefold. First, teachers need a one-time raise that ensures a living wage for all teachers and prevents any teacher from having to work a second job. Second, this raise must be pegged for future adjustments to cost of living, which includes healthcare costs. Third, we must expand Medicaid in the state, which will significantly lower the cost of healthcare and ensure that our public funds go toward compensating teachers for their work -- not straight into the pockets of the healthcare industry.
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?
I would oppose all efforts such as converting secure, efficient defined-benefit plans, which guarantee a pension, into 401(k)- style defined-contribution plans, where each employee would bear all the risk for investment returns while being charged high administrative fees. Furthermore, I support maintaining the state contribution to TRS at least at the current rate and, if necessary for long-term sustainability, increasing it.
5. 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 for school accountability purposes, for evaluating teachers, for measuring student progress, etc.?
I believe that standardized testing has been an unfortunate cornerstone in the Texas public education system. Standardized testing is so problematic that I dedicated my dissertation to discussing the problematic nature of using such exams as a metric of student achievement or aptitude. Furthermore, for over 15 years I have worked for The Princeton Review, a company that helps students conquer issues associated with standardized testing through the use of test-taking strategies. My background has led me to believe in one truth about standardized testing: standardized tests truly only measure how well an individual can take a standardized test. Indeed, the problem with standardized testing is simple: a standardized test is an invalid and unreliable metric of student achievement or aptitude and has no bearing on a student's ability to succeed in school.
First, I believe we need to eliminate the high-stakes EOC exams required by the state of Texas. Such one-shot, high-stakes tests should neither be used as a barrier to entry to the next level or study nor as requirement for graduation. Rather, such tests could be administered at the beginning of a school year in order to provide teachers with a more complete picture of the abilities of a student, class, or institution. However, we must consider standardized test results in conjunction with past student performance records, teacher recommendations, and formative evaluations that take place throughout the school year. Furthermore, we must ensure that educators are not penalized for student performance on standardized tests—something that has happened through the use of the Value Added Metric in Texas. Similarly, we should not penalize institutions that have lower standardized test scores by withholding financial support. Such actions are in direct opposition to the idea that all students, regardless of race, geographical location, or socio-economic status, should receive a publicly funded, high-quality education.
6. To what extent should student performance determine teacher pay?
I do not believe that teacher pay should be affected by student performance on high-stakes standardized tests.
7. Would you vote 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?
I believe that high-quality public school system that meets the needs of our students should be accessible to all Texans. I do not support "school choice" schemes that use public school funds to support either private or sectarian schools. I believe that public tax money should only be used to support a system of free public schools, and I oppose the implementation of school voucher or tax credit programs that harm the Texas public school system both financially and academically.
The rise of charter schools in Texas has led to increasing inequity in the education of our youth, as it benefits the affluent and harms the underprivileged. Imagine the following scenario:
A charter school costs $25,000 annually to attend, and school vouchers provide individuals with $5,000 in funding. Only individuals that have wealth will be able to pay the $20,000 differential to send their children to the charter school. Those who do not have $20,000 cash on hand will be forced to send their children to the local public school.
Furthermore, charter schools that have affluence and amenities will be more likely to attract the most effective teachers, creating a division in teacher quality amongst the charter and public schools.
Charter schools, and associated voucher schemes, only provide the appearance of equity, while maintaining a class division among the affluent and the impoverished. Should we move to a privatized system of education, the existing class divisions will only deepen; those with wealth and access will be able to attend an educational institution of their choice, while those of a lower socioeconomic will be forced to attend schools that may be of lesser quality. Societies that lack an educated population, due to a poor education system, have low economic stability, high unemployment rates, increased crime rates, poor healthcare, and have a lower quality of life.
Rather than increasing the number of charter schools in Texas, let's take the positive aspects of charter schools and implement them into our Texas public school system. Rather than using taxpayer money to invest in charter schools that are not obligated to accept or retain students, let's take that money and invest it into our Texas public school system. Rather than expanding a system that benefits those in the upper echelon of our society, let's reform the Texas public school system so that we provide a high-quality public education to all Texans.
8. 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?
I support the right of letting all public employees have professional association dues deducted from their paychecks.
9. What role, if any, should charter schools have in the public education system, and do you feel the number of charter schools operating in Texas should be reduced or expanded?
Please see Question 7.
10. Recent legislation has made it possible for school districts to exempt themselves from many state laws (e.g., class-size limits, requirements for hiring certified teachers, minimum salary schedules, school calendar restrictions, etc.) by partnering with outside entities, allowing campuses to be managed by a charter school operator, or becoming part of a District of Innovation, for example. Do you agree with this type of deregulation of public schools, and how should such non-traditional schools be governed?
I strongly disagree with such deregulation as it only weakens the strength of the public school system. We should be using taxpayer money to support our public school system, not line the pockets of private operators.
No additional comments
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A NONPARTISAN VOTER EDUCATION PROJECT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF TEXAS PROFESSIONAL EDUCATORS