1. If elected, what will your top priorities for public education be?
I will work to ensure that the state fully funds its responsibility to public schools. Over the last several years the state has failed to maintain its percentage of public school finance, and the burden has fallen on the local districts to make up the difference. The state must do better.
I want to make sure that the Teacher Retirement System doesn’t fall into the hands of private investors. This pension is a promise to our Texas teachers, and those funds should not go to the profits of private equity firms.
We also have to expand rural internet access. Students in our rural areas need the same educational opportunities as those in areas with reliable high-speed internet, and we need to fund the infrastructure projects necessary to make the internet as accessible and affordable in our rural areas as they are in our larger cities.
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?
Yes. We need to get everything on the table so that we can find funds within the existing budget and find new sources of revenue to solve this.
We can start by closing tax loopholes and tax subsidies and property tax abatements that give billions of tax dollars to corporations and private entities.
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?
I’m a supporter of a universal, single-payer, Medicare-for-all healthcare system, but until we can get to that point, we need to strengthen and improve the systems we currently have. Most importantly, Medicaid expansion.
I support Texas public school teachers receiving the same benefits as state employees and this will require that the state subsidize far more of the health care premium costs for 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?
The TRS should not go into the hands of private industry and should be maintained as a defined benefit pension. Privatization is a handout to big financial and investment firms who will make a profit and it will not help our Texas teachers.
Any changes proposed must be for the benefit of our public school teachers and nothing should happen without their input and approval.
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.?
A majority of teachers nationally (and the parents and students I’ve talked to) think that standardized testing should be reduced.
We spend hundreds of millions of dollars with private companies to administer these tests, and they have shown consistently, over decades, to have problems and technical issues. These companies continue to be fined, and lawsuits against them continue to be filed. If we want to maintain any testing, it should certainly not be with the companies currently administering the tests.
We should work with teachers, administrators and parents to come up with accountability measures and evaluations that are based on more than just one test on one day.
6. Would you support a state-funded across-the-board pay raise for all Texas classroom teachers?
We should treat teachers as the economic engines of our Texas economy. They are in large part responsible for producing well-educated students that graduate with the skills necessary to jump into the workforce well-prepared and ready to innovate and compete in a global economy.
We can start by reducing some of the burden of healthcare costs and teachers will see an increase in their take-home pay.
7. To what extent should student performance determine teacher pay?
Student performance will vary drastically across different districts. Districts with a higher percentage of low-income population and number of students living in poverty have been shown to underperform more wealthy areas. Teachers shouldn’t be penalized for the economic circumstances of their students and districts. I’d prefer to see merit bonuses for outstanding teachers when looking at student performance within that school or district.
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. Absolutely not.
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?
Yes, I support public employees being able to deduct whatever dues to any union or organization they want.
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 being exempted from class size or teacher certification requirements. The A-F system is flawed to begin with and should be replaced with a different system altogether and we shouldn’t be relying on a flawed method to determine the criteria for becoming a DOI.
Teachers and administrators have ideas about how to assess accountability, and we should be listening to them.