1721 Saint Mark Ave, El Paso, TX, 79936
Additional InformationElected to SBOE District 1 in November 2022. Current term ends:
Endorsed by the editorial board of the San Antonio Express-News in the 2022 Democratic primary election and the May 2022 Democratic primary runoff election.
Candidate Survey Responses
RESPONSES TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:
1. If elected, what do you believe your primary role and responsibility as a state board member should be?
If elected, my primary role and responsibility as a state board member should be to serve as a voice for the public in the best interest of students. the State Board of Education is the only place that the public has a voice. It is the only avenue for a democratic process.
2. In your opinion, what is the most pressing issue facing public education in Texas?
The most pressing issue facing public education in Texas is the promotion of vouchers, the rapid expansion of charter schools, and lack of regulation and oversight of charter schools.
3. What role should educators and educator groups such as ATPE play in policy decisions made by the State Board of Education (SBOE)?
Educators and educator groups such as ATPE should work together with SBOE to learn and evaluate policy. Educator groups and the SBOE should then work to communicate policy effectively.
4. How much weight should the SBOE give to educators’ input when it comes to setting curriculum standards (known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or “TEKS”) and evaluating instructional materials?
The SBEO should trust and depend on the expertise of SBEC certified experienced teachers. The SBOE appoints content experts and teacher workgroups to adopt curriculum standards. The current process involves teacher workgroups that are composed of SBEC practitioners. A review process then goes into effect with a public hearing and public testimony before accepted by the commissioner and a proclamation is issued. The procedures are very public and dynamic and considered to be one of the best in the nation. I would work to continue and maintain this process and include scholars in the field of education to be included in the process.
5. Do you believe our state’s public education system, including current regulations on testing and accountability, graduation requirements, and curriculum standards, enables students to receive a well-rounded education throughout all grade levels? Would you recommend any changes?
Yes, I absolutely believe in our state's public education system. That being said, it is equally important to observe the system through an objective analytical lens to identify areas of improvement for the greater good. Testing and accountability lets teachers and parents know how the students are doing. It lets teachers know when and where to re-teach. Testing also helps identify the strengths and areas for improvement for teachers. I would recommend however, that local school districts should be the only people who receive STAAR data and use it for internal diagnostic processes. Regarding graduation requirements, I would work to ensure that insurmountable barriers do not exist for students. Graduation requirements include the completion of necessary course work and earned endorsement. Students may also complete dual credit courses. With these standards in place, it must be recognized that there is always room for improvement and more that can be done. It would be my responsibility as the SBOE to identify these areas to ensure students achieve graduation requirements while enabling and empowering them to continue their post secondary education towards becoming well balanced active members of society.
6. What role, if any, should charter schools have in the Texas public education system?
Charter schools should not have any role in the Texas public education system. Charter schools steer money away from public schools, they are unregulated, discriminatory and not held to the same standards as ISD schools.
7. What role should the SBOE play in overseeing charter schools, such as approving or denying new charter applications and expansion requests of existing charters?
I can assure my constituents that I will however, always vote in their favor and work to examine all charter applications that go through capacity interviews. I will make it a practice to attend capacity interviews and provide applicants with allotted time with me to share detailed information about their application. I will always request detailed summaries of each charter application and will work to create public oversight since charter schools receive public funding. I will also work to ensure that compliance with state quality standards, governance requirements, and financial accountability is not only created and monitored but also held to the same standards as public school ISD’s.
8. Do you believe the SBOE should continue to have the authority to review and potentially veto any rulemaking actions taken by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC)?
The SBOE should continue to have the authority to review and potentially veto any rulemaking actions taken by SBEC. I would make every effort to ensure that Teachers are highly qualified SBEC certified. Being a certified SBEC teacher means that a teacher has undergone the rigorous process of completing an approved Texas Educator Preparation Program sanctioned by the state of Texas. Programs require that candidate teachers complete several hours of practice in the classroom. A teacher candidate must have obtained a Bachelor’s Degree, pass a Certification Exam on content and pedagogy, submit a Texas state application, and complete fingerprinting and national criminal background check. Students deserve the very best regardless of where they live or how much their parents make. When working with students, standards for the teaching profession must be at the highest level.
Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey
COMMENTS SUBMITTED IN RESPONSE TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:
I have devoted my entire 17 year career towards education. I am a first generation college graduate and Latina Native American woman. My Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, and Ph.D. are all in education and my teaching and principal certifications are from Texas. I am homegrown and a product of the Texas public school system. I have taught elementary and secondary student up to college undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. My passion for education is undeniable. I wholeheartedly believe in the public school system but also believe there is work to be done. I am a teacher advocate and servant leader and mother of three young daughters who all attend public schools. Neither of my opponents have the extensive knowledge and background in public school that I do. For all these reasons, I ask that you please vote for me, Dr. Melissa Ortega.