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Jonathan Cocks
Texas Senate District 8
Status

Challenger

Party

Democrat

Occupation

Certified Public Accountant

Address

820 Quail Rise, Fairview, TX, 75069

Additional Information

Previously ran for office unsuccessfully in 2020.

Endorsed in the 2020 Democratic primary election by the Dallas Morning News editorial board.


Candidate Survey Responses


RESPONSES TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:

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

I have three education related priorities:

1. Sustain the education funding and teacher compensation commitments the Legislature made in 2019.

2. Move education decision making from state authorities to local school districts.

3. Address the learning gap and student mental health issues resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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?

I don't believe 2019's HB 3 is sustainable. While the primary purpose of HB 3 was to address education funding, the required offsets to local property tax rates will place a growing burden on future State budgets that will be increasingly intolerable to Republican dominated legislatures.

It is difficult to determine the different revenue sources used to fund public education. However, one of the purposes of public education is to provide Texas with a skilled and educated workforce. Since Texas businesses are the primary beneficiaries of public education, dedicating franchise tax revenues to offset the property tax reductions and provide an additional revenue stream for public education would be good place to start. During 2021 total franchise tax collections were approximately $5.8 billion. If the original 1% margin tax rate was restored, franchise tax collections would increase approximately 33% to $7.7 billion.

Texas needs to invest more in public education. Presently, Texas makes a below average investment in public education, but manges to achieve an above average return. That's also not sustainable. If Texas aspires to be a 21st century global economic powerhouse, it need to materially increase public education funding.

While inconsistent with schools’ anti-drug messages, if the Legislature legalized recreation marijuana and taxed it that revenue stream could be dedicated to public education.

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?

Health care continues to face rampant inflation. This is much more than just an educator issue. Along with every state and local government employee, it impacts every Texan. It is also a personal issue since my wife, who is a public school teacher, provides our family's health coverage.

I am committed to finding ways to reducing, or at least slowing the continued increase in, the cost of health care. However, I do not know what the solution is or looks like. I believe the State needs to revisit its teacher compensation model. Overall teacher compensation needs to be increased. The State then needs to decide what portion of this increase is attributed to teacher's monthly pay and what portion is used to reduce the teachers' cost of 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?

The Teacher Retirement System should continue to be a traditional defined benefit pension plan.

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.?

The purpose of standardized tests should be to measure student progress.

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. If parents want their children to attend a private or charter school, then they need to pay for it. Choosing to homeschool a child is a parental choice, which the parents are responsible for.

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 payroll deductions. Denying payroll deductions to teachers or other public employees is outright petty and strictly a way of imposing someone else's political agenda on third parties.

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?

Fundamentally, a charter school is a private school. If parents choose to send their children to a charter school, then they need to pay for it. Charter schools should no longer receive government funding.

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 am a strong believer in local control. After having appropriate consultations with public health authorities, each local school district should make their own decisions tailored to their district's unique circumstances.

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 is a multi deminsional issue. I understand why virtual learning could be an option. However, I question its effectiveness.

My wife is a middle school teacher. I observed her experience during the spring of 2020, which was exclusively virtual. I also observed her experience during the 2020/2021 school year when virtual was an alternative to in-person learning (hybrid model). She taught in the classroom and virtually simultaneously. Our son was exclusively virtual during the 2020/21 school year when he was in tenth grade.

I don't believe the hybrid model is fair to teachers. Teachers should either teach in-person or virtually. Virtual learning also requires disciplined students and engaged parents for it to be an effective learning experience. For the majority of students, I don't believe it is an effective learning experience.

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?

I favor local control. The state's role should be to establish and set expectations. How those expectations are met and what is used to meet them should be each local school district's responsibility.

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?

First and foremost this is a resource issue. Districts need additional resources (funding) to appropriately solve this issue. The current teacher shortage along with the "Great Resignation" further compounds and complicates possible solutions.

Being realistic, remediating the learning gap will require students to spend additional time in school. I suggest consideration be given to adding an additional school year to the K thru 12 regime for the next ten years. For students who were in elementary school during the pandemic, their additional year would be occur after sixth grade. Those who were in middle school during the pandemic, their additional year would occur after ninth grade. The additional year for high school students would occur after twelfth grade.

Adoption of such a proposal would require an enormous investment. But if done properly, it would insure Texas students were fully educated before moving onto college or the workforce. It would also eliminate the burden on existing teachers to teach the current year's curriculum and also attempt to close an accumulated learning gap.

Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey


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