Improving education in Texas is one of the key issues you plan to address as a state Senator. In this past session, the Legislature introduced multiple bills and debated a variety of education topics ranging from pre-K to college. What are the top 3 issues you see facing public education in Texas?
Response Received by 16 Dec
For the past 10 years I’ve had the honor of serving as a Trustee on the Burleson School Board. Over the last decade, I have experienced the devastating impact of state lawmakers who put public schools and our children on the back burner. Our board has deal with the massive public education funding cuts and find ways to strategically manage our resources so we could continue to pay our teachers and address the challenges of a growing school district. I’m committed to changing the culture in Austin and refocusing the attention of our state legislature on our children and our future.
There are many areas we must address to fix our public schools, and the first is obviously funding. I believe the state needs to increase our share of funding for public schools. I could go on all day about the need to increase funding, as it’s the most crucial issue facing public education, but instead of dedicating this post to funding, I would like to discuss three other issues I see facing public schools:
1) The first issue is the voucher push we have seen in Austin and the continuing effort to drive the voucher initiative. The 2017 voucher bill supported by Konni Burton could have cut over $60 million dollars from Tarrant County public schools. I will never support vouchers. Instead of flawed voucher bills, what I’ve focused on as a school board trustee is the creation of public schools of choice. In Burleson, we have invested in a public STEAM, STEM, performing arts, a game theory academy and a leadership academy. By keeping our tax funds in public schools, we have been able to provide students a world class education that fits their needs and interests. Incentivizing this approach statewide will result in improved instruction and academic achievement for our students.
2) The key to a great classroom is a great teacher. We need to invest in our teachers because it’s their job to shape the future leaders of our state. Our teachers in Texas are notoriously underpaid and are paying more out -of-pocket for health care than ever before. We need an across the board pay raise for our public school teachers and need to find long term solutions to address their rising health care costs. It is important, however, to strategically increase the pay of our teachers so their salaries reflect the rising cost of living in different regions in Texas.
3) I believe we need to move beyond high stakes standardized testing, instead finding ways to better measure the progress of our students that more accurately measure their competencies. It is time to bring together teachers, administrators, parents AND students to develop a new way to measure student progress that does not place undue stress on our students and allows our teachers to do what they do best: teach.
Response Received: Dec 17
Funding, funding, and funding.
I haven’t been in the board room. I’ve been in the classroom, teaching, and I come from a family of educators. Of course, it isn’t just that we need to throw money at things and hope it works out. But proper funds will fix the key issues which we struggle with. For instance –
– We need to hire good teachers, retain the good teachers we have, and support our retired teachers. This means paying them a competitive salary, funding their benefits, and properly funding TRS-care. Paying our teachers a competitive salary would also mean we hire teachers who are highly qualified and certified.
– Standardized testing eats a fifth of our education budget, and almost everyone agrees that while we need to have a benchmark for our students and teachers, the current method does not work.
– Schools require a proper number of teachers and support staff to function well. Right now our schools are critically short on both, and are still struggling to make ends meet.
– Our recapture system desperately needs to be changed or updated to reflect a fair and useful system.
– We absolutely must support Texans who want to support Texas. We need to offer both government funded pre-K and we need to do away with the idea that every child must get a four year degree. It is imperative that we support obtaining a two year or technical degree to help our businesses which so desperately need skilled labor.
Overall, our school finance is intensely and unnecessarily complicated in terms of the equations and methods we use to allocate funds to certain schools, but as a teacher and a scientist I believe we can use what the research has been showing us to guide us to an improved public education in the state of Texas. I disagree with Senator Burton here – I believe we can absolutely iron out school finance in one session, and I believe when we start funding schools properly from state coffers we will see a huge benefit to all Texans.