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Jolanda Jones
Texas House District 147
Status

Incumbent

Party

Democrat

Occupation

Attorney

Address

5445 Almeda Rd., Suite 307, Houston, TX, 77004

Additional Information

Jones won a special election May 7, 2022, to fill the remainder of the term of former Rep. Garnet Coleman, who resigned from this seat at the end of February 2022.

Jones also won a May 24 runoff in the 2022 Democratic primary election for Texas House District 147, vying for a full term to begin in January 2023. 

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Candidate Survey Responses


RESPONSES TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:

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


Raising pay for teachers and all public-school employees
Opposing the use of public money for private school vouchers
Improving access to trade programs, vocational training, and community colleges
Crafting policies to close the learning gap for students
Ensuring our schools are safe from gun violence
Closing the digital divide in public education
Repealing the faulty public education funding formula aka Recapture

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?

Yes, more state funding is needed for Texas schools. We must ensure we have more funding from the state and that local districts are allowed to raise local revenue without artificial restrictions placed on them by the state.

We need to get rid of Robin Hood. Recapture has devastated the Houston Independent School District. Our state leadership seems to think they know better than local school boards how their districts should be run. No one knows a district better than the board trustees, teachers and parents; they should be making the decisions about how to raise and spend funds. Robin Hood shows that politicians have no clue about the school districts they want to run. Money is taken from the Houston Independent School District while the vast majority of its students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. We need that money for our kids.

More funding ideas: Stop spending money on Abbott’s border wall folly. Get rid of Abbott’s slush fund, otherwise known as the Texas Enterprise Fund. Enact property tax appraisal reform to make corporations and wealthy Texans pay their fair share of taxes.

Our state leadership seems to find money for everything but our children. We need to re-focus our priorities.

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?

Yes, health care costs are skyrocketing. We need to keep up with the rising costs of healthcare premiums for both active and retired educators. When I am elected to the Texas House, I will work with my colleagues to ensure that educators have access to affordable health care.

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 support keeping TRS as a defined benefit plan. That offers the best outcome for retirees.

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.?

I know, from personal experience, that standardized test are not an indicator of student learning or achievement. I never did well on standardized testing. In high school I scored 890 (if my memory serves me properly) on the SAT out of 1600. I was, however, a straight A student and an over achiever in extracurricular activities. I had full academic and sports scholarship offers from almost all universities, including all of the Ivy League schools. I don’t remember my LSAT score but my college counselor advised me not to attend law school because it was so low, notwithstanding that I made straight A’s in college and was an over achiever in extracurricular activities, including winning multiple national championships and founding numerous organizations. I was offered a full scholarship to Stanford Law School. When I graduated from law school, I was extremely anxious about passing the Texas State Bar because I had always performed horribly on standardized tests up until that point in my life. What the standardized tests didn’t measure was that if I was able to learn the subject matter, I generally achieved the highest grades in my classes from the time I was in kindergarten. Standardized tests had me believing I was dumb because “if you can’t pass a standardized test then you are stupid”. The truth was that I didn’t know how to take standardized tests. I had no idea standardized test prep existed nor would my mom had been able to afford it. Needless to say, since I did well in law school (University of Houston Bates School of Law), I was recruited by prominent downtown Houston law firms. A part of excelling in law school and being recruited by the white shoe law firms, is that Bar prep was an expense they paid for. The law firm I ultimately accepted a position with paid for my bar prep. It was over $3,000. I aced the Texas State Bar. I was so shocked about how high my score was that I called back later to make sure the Texas Supreme Court gave me the right results.

Like teacher evaluations, standardized tests are not a valid measure for student performance either. Standardized tests don’t show if you are hungry, have a roof over your head, got evicted, got molested, survived the trauma of your father’s suicide or the multiple murders of family members, whether you got molested by your uncle, whether you were suicidal, whether you were a latch key kid because your single mom had to work overtime to pay the bills, whether your rent house burned down because you had no electricity and were using candles, whether you don’t have gas in the winter, whether CPS tried to take you from your single mom, and so on. I could go on but I’m tired of sharing all that I personally went through when I was in grade school. Hindsight is 2020, it’s amazing that I was able to do so well considering my DAILY traumas. Standardized tests account for none of that.

The moral of the story is that standardized tests test whether a student knows how to take standardized tests and not much more. That’s my personal opinion. Standardized test brainwash students to only judge themselves based on standardized test-taking and that’s just sad. We are so much more than our standardized tests scores. I’m very thankful that my grandmother and mom instilled in me that I was smart despite what standardized tests said. I’m thankful that I didn’t listen to my college counselor who told me that I shouldn’t go to law school solely because of my LSAT score notwithstanding that I graduated magna cum laude with a 3.83 GPA, while winning four national championships.

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?

No. We should be spending our tax dollars improving the quality of public education. Public tax dollars should be spent on public school education. The private sector has no place in public education. Children are not widgets. We must ensure that each child has a quality education, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin or the ability of their parents to pay for private schools.

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?

I support letting all public employees continue to exercise this right. I come from a union family and I know how professional associations like ATPE stand up for workers.

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?

Public tax dollars should be used exclusively for public schools and all children.

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 strongly believe in local control. Who knows better how to run a school than the teachers and administrators on the ground, with the support of parents and the local community.

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?

Virtual education has been vital during the COVID pandemic. It still has a role but how it is used should be up to individual school districts.

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 ones who should be making decisions about public school curriculum and instructional materials are the local school districts. We need to repeal the law that bans the teaching of critical race theory and let the educators do what they do best: educate our children without political interference. Representation matters. Truth matters. I’m critical of politicians who deny the oppression of people of color and pass laws to prevent students’ education related to what actually happened in this country.

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?

We need to pay our teachers an adequate salary so we can hire the best and the brightest. We need to ensure that classrooms are kept to acceptable sizes so that teachers can give each student the attention they need and deserve. We need the necessary technology in all our schools.

Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey


COMMENTS SUBMITTED IN RESPONSE TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:

I served on the Houston Independent School District Board of Trustees from 2015 to 2019. I have seen the problems caused by underfunding, political interference, inequality among schools and more. I supported our teachers, administrators and support personnel and to help them do the best job they could possibly do to educate our children. Recapture caused me to have to make very difficult decisions due to Texas robbing HISD of tens of millions of local tax dollars and sending our hard earned and paid taxes to other parts of the state. I am seeking to take my knowledge and experience to the Texas State House as the representative for District 147, using my voice and my vote to ensure that all Texas children have a quality education. I would be honored by your support.