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.
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1. If elected, what will your top priorities for public education be?
1) School finance reform - The primary goal of school finance reform is to have the state support schools by providing at least 50% all public school funding. The second goal is to update the formulas which have led to central Texas providing an enormous share of school funding, and an escalation of property taxes. 2) Ensure no voucher or voucher-like programs are passed. Tax dollars must stay in public schools. 3) Ensure children needing special education services are having their needs met. There should not be a cap on the number or percentage of students who are identified as needing extra help due to dyslexia, English not being their native language, or any other learning disability.
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?
I believe we need to increase state funding to meet the needs of our public school students. When the courts ruled that the state was not meeting its Constitutional duty to provide adequate public education in 2005, a special session was called and the Legislature strengthened the Franchise Tax as a result of recommendations from the business community. And yet in years since 2006, the Franchise Tax has been chipped away to the point that the state doesn't have enough revenue to meet all it's needs. We must bring the business community together again to come up with a solution to our lack of adequate revenue. The Franchise Tax might again be strengthened, or business leaders may have other solutions that keep us from relying so heavily on the property tax and sales taxes which are regressive. Also, the Comptroller has suggested a way to invest the Rainy Day Fund which might provide a revenue stream in the future.
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?
The state must ensure health care is affordable for teachers and retired teachers which means a larger contribution from the state.
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 believe the Teacher Retirement System should be maintained as a traditional defined benefit pension plan for all future, current, and retired educators. TRS should not be converted to a defined contribution plan that is more like a 401k plan. That would put a burden on educators to be responsible for investing, which is not their area of expertise, or they would have to pay someone to manage their investments which would add cost. There would be winners and losers, rather than a stable guaranteed retirement for all.
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.?
Standardized testing should be used to allow teachers to understand students' strengths and weaknesses so they can address areas of concern and measure progress in subject matter. I don't believe standardized test results are a good determinant of a teacher's abilities since there are too many outside factors affecting test scores. I don't believe it is helpful to schools to be graded A-F. We need to support students and teachers, and use standardized testing in a manner that benefits students, not in a manner that results in low morale or self-fulfilling prophecies.
6. Would you support a state-funded across-the-board pay raise for all Texas classroom teachers?
I support a state-funded across-the-board pay raise for all Texas classroom teachers. I believe teachers have one of the most important roles in society - teaching and inspiring our next generation of doctors and nurses, architects and engineers, teachers and artists, entrepreneurs and business leaders, professionals and trades people. Teacher pay should be commensurate with the job they are doing, and current salaries don't reflect the critical work teachers do.
7. To what extent should student performance determine teacher pay?
I don't think student performance on a standardized test should determine teacher pay. Teacher performance should determine teacher pay. Is the teacher on time and prepared for class? Does the teacher cover the required materials and respond to students who ask for help? Does the teacher inspire students and do his/her students show improvement during the course of the year? There are plenty of indicators of teacher success that do not rely solely on student performance.
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 do not support any type of voucher program that would be aimed at paying for students to go to private or non-public schools 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 support allowing public employees the ability to deduct membership dues from their paychecks if they choose to do so.
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 do not support districts exempting themselves from educational requirements, such as class-size limits and teacher certification requirements. I am concerned about the ability for districts to become Districts of Innovation in order to bypass state laws. I believe there should be limitations on which state laws can be waived in cases where districts have become a DOI. And I would be in favor or reviewing requirements for becoming a DOI in the first place.
I have been involved with AISD for a number of years. In addition to being in the PTA while my children were in school, I did the following: I served as tri-Chair on the Austin ISD's Strategic Plan Advisory Committee in 2009. I participated in AISD Up-Close in 2008. I was a member of the Campus Advisory Committee for Bailey Middle School in 2011.
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