First elected to the Texas House in 2018. Cole is running unopposed for re-election in 2020.
Endorsed in the 2018 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.
Voted for a major school finance and reform bill providing $6.5 billion in increased funding for public education and $5 billion for property tax relief.
House Bill 3 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On April 3, 2019, the House voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #159. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.)
Voted for an ATPE-supported educator retirement bill making the TRS pension fund sound by increasing contribution rates and authorizing a one-time 13th check for retirees.
Senate Bill 12 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On April 25, 2019, the House voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #661. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.)
Voted for an ATPE-supported school safety bill offering funding to implement school safety improvements and provide mental health resources.
Senate Bill 11 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On May 22, 2019, the House voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #1610. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.)
Voted for a floor amendment to Senate Bill 11 requiring the state to identify regional resources that schools can use to address students' mental health needs. The amendment was based on Rep. Allison's HB 4414, a bill supported by ATPE.
House Floor Amendment #8 by Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio) to Senate Bill 11 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. During the House floor debate on this school safety bill, Rep. Allison offered Floor Amendment #8 to improve mental health resources in schools. The amendment passed on May 21, 2019. (Record vote #1579. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.) Procedural note: This amendment was later reconsidered and amended before being adopted by the House again. (Record vote #1600. View an official record of that subsequent vote in the House journal.)
Voted against a bill that would have weakened the 22:1 cap on elementary school class sizes. ATPE opposed the bill.
House Bill 1133 by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On May 9, 2019, the House voted to defeat the bill on second reading. (Record vote #1244. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.)
Voted for an ATPE-supported bill that would have funded and strengthened mentoring programs for teachers.
House Bill 102 by Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On April 9, 2019, the House voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #197. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.) HB 102 did not get heard by the Senate, but its language was incorporated into HB 3 that did pass and become law.
Voted for a bill to require certain school districts to assign properly certified teachers to students in elementary grades and prevent students from being taught by first-year teachers in consecutive years. HB 1276 would have applied to school districts with at least 5,000 students, unless the district was exempted under the District of Innovation (DOI) law or received a hardship waiver from the commissioner of education. The bill was designed to prevent students from being assigned for two consecutive school years to teachers with less than one year of experience or teachers not certified in the subject being taught as part of the foundation curriculum. Exceptions were provided for new transfer students and students whose parent or guardian consents to the placement. ATPE supported the bill.
House Bill 1276 by Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On April 25, 2019, the House voted to approve the bill on third reading. (Record vote #746. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.) The bill ultimately died after it did not get heard in the Senate.
Voted for a floor amendment to House Bill 3 to increase the transparency and efficiency of charter schools by requiring them to undergo an audit of their fiscal management prior to expanding or opening new campuses and to share the audit results on their website. ATPE supported the amendment.
House Floor Amendment #15 by Rep. Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd) to House Bill 3 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. During the House floor debate on the school finance bill, Rep. Bailes offered Floor Amendment #15 on charter school transparency and efficiency. The amendment passed on April 3, 2019. (Record vote #153. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.) The Senate later stripped the amendment out of the bill.
Voted against a bill that would prohibit school districts and other local governmental entities from funding legislative advocacy efforts or paying membership dues to organizations that engage in legislative advocacy.
Senate Bill 29 by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), 86th Legislature, Regular Session. On May 20, 2019, the House voted to defeat the bill on third reading. (Record vote #1519. View an official record of the vote in the House journal.)
Below are the candidate's responses to the 2018 ATPE Candidate Survey:
1. If elected, what will your top priorities for public education be?
Simply put, the state needs to invest substantially more dollars into public education. So many of the systemic issues in our education system are connected to the fact that the state has abandoned its fair share of education funding, forcing school districts to rely more and more on local property taxes and bonds, which can only provide so much. I will relentlessly fight for every additional dollar possible for public education, whether it is for creating all day universal Pre-K or to make sure every student has access to the textbooks they need. If the state will not utilize an income tax, then we need to have the conversation about modernizing the school finance formula to insure that vulnerable student populations are not losing hundreds of millions of dollars to recapture.
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?
Absolutely. While my personal preference is for a state income tax, I acknowledge that it is more likely that we restructure the school finance formula to be more equitable and add more dollars to education during the budget process. As the system exists in its current form, we see districts like AISD lose upwards of a half billion dollars to recapture, despite the fact that a majority of students in district are on free or reduced lunches. That simply does not work for the school district, for the students, or for the educators.
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?
We need to add more money into the system to insure that educators, both current and retired, receive the care they deserve. I am committed to supporting teachers, and hope that a majority of other legislators feel the same way.
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 is not fair for someone to put in years of service into teaching and mentoring our children, only for them to have an uncertain retirement. Educators should be secure in their futures with defined benefit plans.
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.?
The state needs to walk a very fine line with how it approaches standardized testing. It does not benefit students to only teach the test and over emphasize a single round of testing. However, we cannot ignore the use of standardized testing as a possible benchmark for student and school progress. Standardized testing should be used as a factor when evaluating the state of public education in Texas, but it should only be part of a more holistic view that takes into account many more factors when measuring success.
6. Would you support a state-funded across-the-board pay raise for all Texas classroom teachers?
Yes, and not in the form of Gov. Abbott's unfunded mandate, but as part of an increase in our investment in education.
7. To what extent should student performance determine teacher pay?
It is a very slippery slope to allow the legislature to set teacher performance pay standards when school finance is already based on an inequitable formula. Educators do not always have the freedom to pick the kind of district, school, or classroom they will work in, and they should not be punished for putting in hard and often thankless work with our at-risk student populations. I do support a pay raise for teachers due to their hard work in cultivating the future of Texas, but it should be done fairly, equitably, and not at the expense of districts and schools with less funding.
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?
I believe that the state's responsibility is to first and foremost fund public education. I acknowledge the many success stories of charter schools, especially in inner city programs across the United States. But when Texas is already behind on its monetary investment in education and the funds we are given to work with are very limited, I will be prioritizing public schools over private or home schools.
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 absolutely support allowing public employees to use payroll deduction for membership dues. I know that the Dues Check Off fight did not end with the last legislative session, and I am very prepared to defend the right of the worker to organize in future sessions.
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?
I understand the desire to innovate within education in Texas when school districts are asked to do so much and are given so little. DOIs can be a very powerful tool for a school district, but I am also wary that they can grant too much freedom at the expense of teacher job security, community input and involvement, and certain meaningful regulations. I respect that DOIs were created with bipartisan support, but I do believe it is reasonable to reexamine their progress and make sure that our school districts are not harming our students with the decisions they make. I would welcome this process as a chance to make sure we are treating students, faculty, and staff with the respect and due diligence they deserve, while promoting progress we might find that DOIs have made.
Additional comments submitted in response to the 2018 ATPE Candidate Survey:
I got my start in public service as a PTA President at Lee Elementary. I would go on to serve as an AISD Bond Committee Tri Chair and on the boards of Communities in Schools and Joint City-County AISD Coordinating Committee. I raised three boys through the public school system and fully endorse education as a rising tide that can lift all boats. When I was on Austin City Council, we joined school districts across the state in protest of state funding cuts by filing an Amicus Brief on behalf of the city for the school financing lawsuit. I worked to use existing city programs to identify qualified families for free Pre-Kindergarten programs, and I led on a budget amendment that provides critical assistance for parent support specialists and supported afterschool funding. Education requires a massive investment from the state, something that Texas Republicans - especially in the Senate - have been unwilling to give. But I believe that there is a path to victory for all day universal Pre-K, widely accessible and affordable community college, and other popular measures that would benefit us all. I would love to see a more equitable public school finance system that doesn't recapture hundreds of millions of dollars from districts like AISD, where a majority of the students are on free or reduced lunch programs. A state income tax would be ideal, but considering the current political landscape of the Texas legislature, I would settle for modernizing the current formula to be more equitable than it currently is. I would also be interested in using the Economic Stabilization Fund to make up for shortfalls in education funding and infrastructure.
Some events are submitted by third-party entities. ATPE does not endorse candidates. Publication of an event does not constitute endorsement of a candidate or event.
A NONPARTISAN VOTER EDUCATION PROJECT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF TEXAS PROFESSIONAL EDUCATORS