DeMerchant earned 29.6% of the vote in the March primary and and then won a runoff election on July 14, 2020.
She ran unsuccessfully for the same House seat in 2016 and 2018.
DeMerchant was endorsed in the 2016 general 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. Two years later, she was recommended favorably by Texans for Public Education, a grassroots educators' group that researched and rated candidates in the 2018 election based on their stances toward public schools.
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RESPONSES TO THE 2020 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:
1. If elected, what will be your top priorities for public education?
First, I will make the health of our children and teachers a priority. This will entail working to put our health officials in the drivers seat to create a data drive and a logical approach to get our children back on campus as safely and quickly as possible. Second, I will find a way to sustain the teacher pay increases given in the previous legislative session. After meeting with Fort Bend ISD Trustee Jim Rice, he communicated the important of rolling back the public school funding formula. Finally, I will work with administrators to rein in standardized testing.
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 recommend taxing all online purchases. If I pay a sales tax going to a local store to buy items, I should pay the same tax for buying those items online. This should lead significant cash revenue for the state. While HB3 increased teacher compensation, it's not funded moving forward. If we roll out taxing of all online purchases, we can fund these increases and possibly give more in the future.
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?
If the state puts a sales tax on online purchases, part of this new revenue stream could be used to fund these healthcare costs.
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 do not recommend going with the 401k plan. I believe the TRS for all future, current and retired educators should be maintained as a traditional and defined benefit pension. TRS is more stable and reliable even during tough economic times.
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 student progress, etc.?
It should not be used for evaluating teachers, because they inherit children from other educators. At the beginning of each year, each teacher evaluates their children and finds the educational strengths and gaps of each child. I think a teachers evaluation should be based on student performance in their classroom. Extra allowance and benefit should be provided for students that need unique plans to adapt for their learning gaps. When a student shows amazing progress during one academic year, the teacher should be rewarded for their work driving this advancement.
6. To what extent should student performance determine teacher pay?
I cannot say that it should drive teacher pay. A teachers pay should be based on the teacher doing their job, i.e. teaching the curriculum, evaluating the students, communication with students, parents and administration, etc.
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?
Absolutely not. I am a proud product of Fort Bend ISD public schools. These options would take funding from public school systems and I want to see the public schools grow stronger.
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?
Yes, educators should have the option to voluntarily join professional associations such as ATPE.
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?
I am not opposed to public charter schools, as some have proven to be highly effective for the Latino, African American and under-served communities. I do believe they should have the same accountability standards as the other state supported public schools.
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?
We should have hiring standards for teachers to ensure they are qualified. I do not believe school districts should be managed by charter school operators or another entity. There is an existing administrative infrastructure in place that works. We need to provide funding to help it adapt for the future. I am against public school deregulation. Non-traditional schools such as public charter schools should be governed by and held to 100% the same accountability standards as public schools.
Schools need the freedom to adapt class size limits, but with a deadline to get back in alignment with state laws. For example, Fort Bend is one of the fastest growing counties in the country. This can lead to unexpected overcrowding. The local schools need the ability immediately to make the necessary decisions based on their local need. However, a target goal should be put in place, allowing for a grace period until the district can redistrict and/or build more schools to accommodate for local growth changes.
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A NONPARTISAN VOTER EDUCATION PROJECT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF TEXAS PROFESSIONAL EDUCATORS