First elected to the Texas House in 2016.
Endorsed in the2018 and 2016 Republican primary election and 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.
Endorsed in the 2016 Republican primary runoff election by the outging incumbent, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R).
Voted for the final version of the state's budget bill.
Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. A conference committee was appointed to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of this primary budget bill. On a motion by Rep. John Zerwas (R-Fulshear), the House voted to adopt the conference committee report and approve the bill for final passage on May 27, 2017. (Record vote #1945.)
Supported a school finance bill that offered $1.5 billion in additional public school funding. Voted for HB 21, which would have increased the basic and bilingual allotments, added a new allotment for students with dyslexia, and funded hardship grants for certain districts losing money due to the expiration of ASATR (Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction). ATPE supported this bill.
House Bill 21 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. The House voted to approve the bill on third reading on April 20, 2017. (Record vote #328.) This bill did not ultimately pass during the regular session.
Supported additional education funding. Voted for a bill to revise the state's school finance system, add $1.8 billion in new funding for public education, and use the state's rainy day fund to shore up the education budget. ATPE supported the bill.
House Bill 21 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), 85th Legislature, Special Session. The House voted to approve its version of a school finance bill on third reading on Aug. 7, 2017. (Record vote #72.) The Legislature ultimately passed a watered-down Senate version of the bill.
Supported relief from high-stakes testing. Voted for an ATPE-supported bill to extend the Individual Graduation Committees (IGC) law to help qualified high school students graduate in spite of failing a required STAAR test.
Senate Bill 463 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. The House voted to approve the bill on third reading and final passage on May 23, 2017. (Record vote #1606.)
Supported short-term funding for retired educators' healthcare. Voted for a bill that restructured TRS-Care, the health insurance program for retired teachers. The bill prevented the TRS-Care program from running out of money in 2017 and leaving retired educators without health coverage. ATPE supported the bill.
House Bill 3976 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. The House voted in favor of a motion to concur with Senate amendments, which enabled final passage of the bill, on May 24, 2017. (Record Vote #1770.)
Voted against a payroll deduction-related amendment that ATPE opposed. The amendment, which failed to pass, called for a state school finance commission to study whether educators should continue to have access to payroll deduction for their voluntary association dues.
Floor amendment #20 by Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) to Senate Bill 16 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), 85th Legislature, Special Session. The House voted against the amendment on Aug. 14, 2017. The amendment failed to pass. (Record vote #167.)
Opposed vouchers. Voted for an amendment that would prevent the state budget bill from being used to fund or support any form of private school voucher. ATPE supported this amendment.
Floor amendment #8 by Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Corpus Christi) to Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. The House adopted the amendment on April 6, 2017. (Record vote #165.)
Opposed vouchers. Voted for a budget amendment to clarify that no public funds should be used to pay for or support any type of private school voucher. ATPE requested the amendment.
Floor amendment #9 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) to Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. The House adopted the amendment on April 6, 2017. (Record vote #163.)
Opposed vouchers. Opposed a budget amendment that would allow for the possibility of state-funded private school vouchers for certain students. Voted for a motion to table (kill) the amendment. ATPE opposed the amendment and backed the motion to table it.
Motion by Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Corpus Christi) to table floor amendment #10 by Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) to Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. Cain tried to amend the budget bill in order to allow for the possibility of state-funded vouchers for low-income students. ATPE opposed the Cain amendment and supported Herrero's motion to table (kill) the amendment. The House voted to table Cain's amendment #10 on April 6, 2017. (Record vote #164.)
Opposed vouchers. Voted for a motion aimed at keeping private school voucher language out of a school finance bill. ATPE supported the motion.
House Bill 21 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. A conference committee was appointed to try to negotiate a compromise between House and Senate versions of a school finance bill. This vote on May 24, 2017, was on an ATPE-supported motion by Rep. John Zerwas (R-Fulshear) to instruct members of that conference committee to reject any language in the bill that would allow private school vouchers. (Record vote #1712.)
Opposed vouchers. Voted against a motion that would have preserved the possibility of state-funded private school vouchers for students with special needs. ATPE opposed the motion.
House Bill 21 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. A conference committee was appointed to try to negotiate a compromise between House and Senate versions of a school finance bill. This vote on May 24, 2017, was on a motion by Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) to instruct members of that conference committee to favor language in the bill that would allow private school vouchers for students with special needs. ATPE opposed the motion to instruct, which failed to pass. (Record vote #1713.)
Supported measures to improve educator quality. Voted for a bill to establish a mentoring program for inexperienced teachers and state funding for mentor stipends, scheduled release time, and training. ATPE supported the bill, which later died in the Senate.
House Bill 816 by Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. The House approved the bill on third reading on May 11, 2017. The bill did not pass the Senate. (Record vote #1162.)
Supported measures to improve educator quality. Voted for a bill that would prohibit school districts from assigning elementary school students in core subject classes to inexperienced or uncertified teachers for two consecutive years. ATPE supported the bill.
House Bill 972 by Rep. Helen Giddings (D-Dallas), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. The House approved the bill on third reading on May 6, 2017. (Record vote #954.) The bill later died in the Senate.
Supported "David's Law." Voted for a bill to prevent and address the problem of cyberbullying in schools. ATPE supported the bill.
Senate Bill 179 by Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), 85th Legislature, Regular Session. The House voted to adopt the conference committee report and finally pass the bill on May 27, 2017. (Record vote #1938.)
2018 Candidate Survey Responses:
1. If elected, what will your top priorities for public education be?
One of my top priorities for public education is to ensure that school finance is adequate and efficient. As a member of the House Appropriations committee, I have had the opportunity to vote to advance a number of bills that would address these financing formulas, including HB 21 from the regular session, which would have allocated an additional $2 billion to schools and updated financing formulas. While the bill ultimately did not pass in that form, I will work towards ensuring a sustainable solution to school funding is reached. Another priority of mine is ensuring that TRS-Care and TRS Active continue to provide affordable benefits for retired and active teachers. While I voted to allocate almost $700 million in additional funding to TRS-Care during the regular and special session to mitigate cost increases for retired teachers, a one-time funding increase alone is not a sustainable solution.
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?
Increasing the state share of funding for education will not only assist our student and teacher populations, but ensure more affordable property taxes for everyone across the state. While Texas is one of the fastest growing states in the country, it continues to reduce its funding per student. By shifting its education funding burden to local communities over the years, the state has effectively forced individual property owners to make up the difference through unacceptably high taxes. If elected, I would work with my colleagues towards passing a budget that is efficient and conservative, but that adequately funds education so that local taxpayers do not have to pay the difference.
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. As a legislator, how would you address this crisis to ensure that active and retired educators have access to affordable healthcare?
While I voted to allocate nearly $700 million last year to mitigate costs to the beneficiaries of TRS as the program neared insolvency, more must be done to ensure that the program remains stable and that active and retired teachers are not burdened by additional costs. I will continue to work towards changing the way that TRS-Care and TRS active are funded in order to eliminate inefficiencies and provide meaningful relief to active and retired teachers.
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?
When teachers in the state went into the profession, they were promised a traditional defined benefit pension plan to rely on. The state should not break this promise, and should offer a robust benefit plan to make teaching a more attractive profession to enter into, and to incentivize teachers to stay in Texas and stay in teaching.
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.? Excessive standardized testing can be an expensive burden on both teachers and students. While testing has its place and can be one useful way to determine student progress, teachers should not be confined to teaching only materials on a test; they should feel free to innovate and engage with students on a more individualized basis.
6. Would you support a state-funded across-the-board pay raise for all Texas classroom teachers?
During the special session, I voted to advance HB 24 through the Appropriations committee. The bill ultimately did not pass, but would have appropriated state funds for an across the board increase in funding for school employees. Teacher salaries in Texas have not adequately kept up pace with inflation, so a one-time funding increase would help address that issue state-wide. However, a one-time funding increase is not sustainable, so I will work towards achieving a long-term solution for salaries so that teachers can be adequately compensated for their crucial and challenging job moving forward.
7. To what extent should student performance determine teacher pay?
Student performance can be difficult to accurately quantify, and can vary based on a number of aspects completely unrelated to classroom experience, including home life, socioeconomic status, and language skills. Therefore, teacher pay should not be based significantly off of relative standardized test scores and other current means of measuring student achievement. However, administrators should still be able to evaluate teacher performance in a meaningful way. One possible option would be to measure growth in student achievement throughout the school year with a teacher.
8. 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?
No, I would not vote to create a voucher program. Vouchers are an expensive proposition that would redirect crucial funding and attention from public schools which, particularly in rural parts of Texas, serve as the backbone of a community. Before the state should even begin to consider any program which would direct tax dollars away from public schools to systems without accountability measures, it should work to increase its share of funding to education and address the salaries and benefits and teachers. The best way to ensure that our education system is able to meet every student's unique needs is not to funnel money away from public schools, but to ensure that those public-school teachers are adequately compensated and not artificially restrained by standardized testing requirements.
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 all public employees use payroll deduction for their membership dues?
I support allowing all public employees to use payroll deduction for membership dues to professional associations. Texas educators should be free to join professional associations that meet their needs, and should be able to pay in the manner that is most convenient for them. Eliminating the option for payroll deduction would place an inconvenient burden on teachers, and would negatively impact professional associations that provide valuable services to teachers.
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 place any limitations on the state laws that can be waived by DOIs?
The Districts of Innovation program is relatively new and only a handful of districts have implemented the program so far. As more time passes and we are better able to analyze the impact of the program, it is imperative that state law insures that effective education practices are preserved, if not improved. The prospect of a school district being able to sidestep teacher certification is concerning to me, and the 86th legislature will address that issue as well as prioritizing efforts to maintain and improve teacher quality. As more data is collected regarding DOIs the legislature will make appropriate changes where necessary to preserve the quality of education in these districts.
No additional comments
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