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Darren Hamilton
Texas House District 57
Status

Candidate

Affiliation

Libertarian

Party

Independent / Third-Party

Occupation

Information Technologies Manager

Address

123 Main Street, Little Elm, TX, 75068

Additional Information


Candidate Survey Responses


RESPONSES TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:

1. If elected, what will be your top priorities for public education?


My top priorities for public education would be to provide more educational options for both parents and students, particularly in urban or rural areas. To enable this, I would work toward a drastic reduction in school and/or property taxes that would allow residents to redirect those funds into the chosen education option, be it a private school, a charter school, or a home school. I would also work toward eliminating any sort of school tax for residents who do not have school-aged students in the home, such as younger families and empty nesters. These residents should not be forced to pay taxes to fund a service into which they have no voice and no options.

2. What are your recommendations for funding public education, including securing the necessary revenue to sustain the improvements made by House Bill 3 in 2019? Do you believe additional funding is needed?

Personally, I do not recommend additional funding toward public education. Instead, I would work toward reducing the local tax burden that is earmarked specifically for local public schools and allow the residents to choose whether to continue funding their local public school or use those funds toward tuition at a private or charter school, or materials for a home school.

3. How would you address the challenge of rising health care costs facing Texas educators and ensure that active and retired educators have access to affordable health care?

Healthcare is not an educational issue. Rising costs in healthcare are a combination of governmental over-regulation and a general lack of care and medication pricing transparency on the part of providers. I would support legislation that removes systemic barriers between doctors and their patients. It is my thought that this simple action will reduce the exorbitant costs currently affecting the healthcare industry overall.

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?

As an outsider to the education and securities industries, I have very little information on this issue but I know others who are far more adept. Based on their recommendations, I would advocate for maintenance of the current TRS system as opposed to converting it. My admittedly limited understanding of this system suggests that any educator who has paid into this system would be better off by retaining it than they would be after the suggested conversion, especially given their comparatively low salaries (as compared to other professions).

5. What do you feel is the proper role of standardized testing in the Texas public education system? For instance, should student test scores be used for teacher pay, school accountability ratings, evaluating teachers, measuring student progress, etc.?

It seems to me that standardized testing serves one purpose, and one purpose alone: to determine whether the student has the ability to take a standardized test. Some students who excel in a classroom environment will never perform well on a standardized test, just as some students who perform well on standardized tests do not necessarily perform as expected in a classroom environment. The use of standardized testing metrics to evaluate any of the areas named in the question is a political "sword of Damocles" used by government entities as a tool to cleave off the occupational head of anyone who does not perform to a level that has been predetermined by politicians, not educators. Student progress should be the sole purview of the student's parents and teachers. Just as it is with any other profession, teacher performance and pay should be based on professional evaluations performed by the school administrator. School accountability ratings are simply a political tool that have absolutely nothing to do with education and should be eliminated altogether. Just as no two students are the same, the use of such metrics for what are essentially political evaluations erodes public confidence in the education process, turning schools that use these methods into testing preparation centers instead of actual learning centers, and eroding anything that would actually qualify as a well-rounded education.

6. 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 would not vote for, nor would I advocate for any type of program listed in the question because it's morally wrong to steal. The promise of such programs has been that it improves the quality of public education through competition and provides an equity of opportunity between disparate socio-economic students. Unfortunately, that promise has failed to materialize even where such programs are currently in use. Studies have shown that, for both parents and students, a student's peer groups matter far more than their education quality. My own experience as a student confirms this. Libertarians claim that "taxation is theft" meaning that forcibly taking someone's money and simply giving it to someone else can never be morally justified, even when it's the government doing the taking and giving. In the end, programs such as those listed in the question simply steal monies allocated to public education and give them away to other institutions.

7. State law allows educators and other public employees to voluntarily choose to join professional associations such as ATPE and have membership dues deducted from their paychecks at no cost to taxpayers. Do you support or oppose letting all public employees continue to exercise this right?

It is my belief that the employee and the employer should be able to negotiate these items between themselves without interference from any other third party.

8. What role, if any, should charter schools have in the public education system, and do you feel the number of charter schools operating in Texas should be reduced or expanded?

My opinion of charter schools within the public education system is that they provide valuable additional options to serve the educational needs of students. If parents realize that their student's needs remain unmet by traditional public schools, the option of attending a charter school that may better serve that unmet need should be explored. Since I currently have no information regarding the count of public schools compared with charter schools (and what their charters outline) within my district, it would be hypocritical of me to provide an opinion as to whether the count of charter schools should be reduced or expanded.

9. How much freedom should school districts have to make decisions during disease outbreaks, such as requiring face coverings and immunizations or transitioning to remote instruction?

I would suggest that district administrations can issue guidelines and/or recommendations, but nothing more. Any decision regarding issues such as face coverings and immunizations specific to a disease outbreak should remain with the individual school administration. That body is closer to an issue that would affect its faculty and student bodies and could also more easily coordinate with the student's parents to assist with a risk assessment. The determination of whether a student should transition to remote instruction or continue to attend classes under such a risk should remain with the students' parents and (depending on their age) the students themselves.

10. What do you believe is the proper role of virtual education within the public education system? Do you believe full-time virtual education should be expanded, and if so, under what circumstances?

I am not in any position to determine the propriety of any form of instruction within the existing public education system. I would suggest that virtual instruction be considered as one of many possibilities available to students and parents, but its availability and whether such instruction is valuable enough to be expanded should be the determination of the school(s) that offer it.

11. What do you feel should be the state’s role (versus the role of school districts or individual educators) in decisions about public school curriculum and instructional materials?

The role of the state should be restricted to providing guidance and general oversight. Decisions regarding public school curricula and materials should remain the sole purview of the individual school administration and its educators in conjunction with parents. In my opinion, they are far better qualified to assess the needs of their students.

12. The COVID-19 pandemic and additional instructional support needed to remediate students’ learning losses have placed additional strain on public schools’ staffing needs. How would you work to ensure classrooms are appropriately staffed, teachers’ workloads are manageable, and planning time is not sacrificed amid these challenges?

The work that I would do begins with promoting a greater number of options regarding choices in education to include private schools, charter schools, trade schools (at the high school level), and home schools. It is my belief that having a greater number of options in education will diffuse crowding in public school classrooms, ensure that teacher workloads remain manageable, and that lesson planning time is not sacrificed.

Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey


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