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Kristin Johnson
Texas House District 15
Status

Challenger

Party

Democrat

Occupation

Early childhood educator/ Montessori Certified teacher

Address

7 E. Trillium Circle, Spring, TX, 77381

Additional Information


Candidate Survey Responses


RESPONSES TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:

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


First and foremost we must safeguard public funding for public education. Secondly we need to pay Texas teachers not just a livable wage, but one that allows them to live with dignity. We can do this by reducing the burdens of standardized testing, as they do not provide us with an accurate assessment of knowledge or academic skills. Thirdly we need to adequately fund our school districts. As it stand right now the brunt of public education falls on private citizens, however business makes significant gains at the hands of public education. I believe it is time to ask business to invest in the communities that provided them with skilled educated workers. We can do this by closing loopholes in the property tax code.

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?

Again, I believe it is time to ask business to invest in the communities that provided them with skilled educated workers. We can do this by closing loopholes in the property tax code. I do believe additional funding is necessary, and I believe we need to cut wasteful spending on excessive testing.

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 cost are a a critical issue for all industries. For many teachers it simply is not something they can sustain when partnered with low wages, the cost of higher education for themselves and their children. First I would fight for Medicaid expansion; this would give teachers more options in the healthcare market that are not available to them currently, as Texas repeatedly chooses to not participate in the ACA expansion programs. Secondly we must pay teachers wages that allow them to live in a dignified and way. No one, teachers especially should be paying upwards of 20 to 30% of their monthly wages to cover themselves and their families. This is why we must increase teachers wages. Finally we can alleviate other finical burdens including higher education. There are already several programs that forgive student loan debt for teachers who meet certain metrics, however teachers are faced with this burden in a second round when they send their children off to college. I would introduce legislation that would adjust the cost of higher education for all qualified dependents of Texas teacher to the colleges cost to educate those students. Texas' colleges should not be profiting on the backs of Texas teachers. I believe all of these efforts combined would make healthcare more affordable and teaching as a career more sustainable.

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 believe TRS works as a defined benefit when properly funded. TRS investments actually out performed expectation this year. We do however need to give Texas' retired teachers a sustained cost of living increase, and stop writing band-aid check that teachers have to beg for every few years. This is absolutely possible if we reallocate funding from the retirement benefit for elected officials. If the state of Texas can afford to pay a retied legislator 17,000 to 100,000+ annually for working a part time job, then we can afford to pay Texas teachers and fund TRS. Politicians should not make more in single year of retirement than they do when they are activity serving a position.

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.?

Due to national requirements, namely No Child Left Behind, standardized testing is required. However the frequency and metrics we use in Texas far exceed the national obligation. This has not been shown to improve student learning or outcomes. it is actually quite the contrary; more testing means less instruction time, higher stress for both students and teachers, and a funding system that punishes the very systems that need it most. The best ways we can assess educational outcomes is by examining whether or not we met out intended goals. The objective of public education is not a perfect test score, but rather success for students after they have left the classrooms. The focus should be graduation rates, job placement, and college entry/ success.

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, as they would pull public funding out of the public system.

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 fully support allowing Texas teachers to join ATPE.

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?

I believe that charter schools in Texas should be reduced, again as they pull from public funding. Additionally there is almost no accountability for charters when compared to traditionally k-12 programs. There are a few rare exceptions, however the exception should not make the rule in this case.

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 firmly support school districts authority and ability to make decisions that best serve their communities. This has been a long standing norm until very recently. I believe that if a school district has the ability to call school to severe weather or a natural disaster then they should also have the authority to make the call on face coverings and virtual learning.

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?

Statistically research has shown most children learn best in person, however there will always be exceptions. The option of virtual learning was quite literally a lifeline for high risk teachers and students during Corvid. I do think that full time virtual learning has a lot of potential, but needs specific guidelines and requirements. We should never expect in person classroom teachers to simultaneously teach virtual students. Virtual education requires designated staff for the best possible outcome. Furthermore, we would have to set specific guidance for attendance and participation from students. I also believe that we need specific guidance and proof of need for students to opt into a virtual school .

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?

As it stands now TEA sets the standards and districts may create or purchase their own curriculum to meet those standards. On the surface this system sounds great, however what happens more frequently is teachers are supplementing or writing curriculum in their time off. TEA and the Board of Education do vote on approving specific text books, however do not allocate specified funds for those books. We must be able to trust individual educators to do what is best for their students, as the needs of a classroom do change from year to year. After all we are talking about professionals that have undergone years of training, praxis examinations and continuing education hours. However, for Teachers to do this efficiently we must provide them with the necessary resources to do so. Teachers should not be paying for supplemental curriculum because districts and TEA fail to buy workbooks or textbooks that Texas students need.

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 we must handle the teacher shortage. Texas politicians all to frequently continue to fail public teachers by politicizing the classroom. Sadly there is an organized effort to dismantle public education and vilify educators as 'indoctrinating" children.(We know this couldn't be further from the truth.) We also know children learn best in low ratio environments/ classrooms. Texas needs to start actively recruiting educators and incentivizing service in education in some of the ways I have listed above. Secondly we need to publicly acknowledge that academic recovery will take years. It will require adjusted standards and objectives. We will need to find ways to increase effective instruction time, and ways to do away with wasted weeks of ineffective testing and test prep. I would love to see more smaller class sizes and more student teachers on campuses around the state, but none of this will be possible without adequate funding and public support for schools.
 

Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey


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