Retired Oil Industry Executive
P.O. Box 1826, League City, TX, 77573
Candidate Survey Responses
RESPONSES TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:
1. If elected, what will be your top priorities for public education?
1. Safety and Health of our Students…if our students aren’t healthy and safe, they can’t learn. If they can’t learn, then they can’t grow and the mission of public education will fail.
2. Create and resource an environment where schools strive daily to create graduates with the skills to become lifelong learners and productive responsible members of the community.
3. Steady and fiscally responsible funding for our public schools.
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?
Funding should increase slightly or efficiencies identified so that we can compensate our teachers higher in order to create a retention rate above 95% average per year so that teachers do not feel that they need to look to other jobs/professions to provide for their families. Some of this funding can be obtained internally through aggressive identification and taking action to create efficiencies within existing budgets. Other funding should be diverted from other State programs / taxes / fees, including increasing Oil and Gas Severance Taxes that have remained at the same level since 1951 and 1969 respectively.
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?
I believe that a sound well funded educator health care program is a primary tool to attract, retain, and take care of our teaching/teacher population and thus serves as a cornerstone in achieving our educational goals. As such, I believe the State has a responsibility to fund these benefits fully and would look to divert / increase tax / fee / revenue funding from other areas to shore up these programs in addition to identifying efficiencies within the State budget. There is no excuse to not properly compensate our teachers both during and post teaching service in a retired status.
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?
Defined benefit plans have the backing of the State and thus are secure and predictable. However, they are not always well managed and the rate of return on investments can be lower to the retiree than a 401 (k) style plan. Both can work. And both can fail. As a general statement, many entities are switching from a defined benefit plan to 401 (k) styles not only to save expenses / long term liabilities to the organization but also because the workers desire more flexibility in their investments. I am not ready to state that one is better or worse than the other as it relates to TRS. Instead, if elected, I would very much like to survey those in the TRS to determine their desires as well as review in depth the performance of the State investments and then develop a solution. However, until such time, and because this is an either-or question, I would advocate keeping TRS as a defined benefit plan until the business case can be established to change based on the findings and input from the actions I outlined above.
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 goal of a school district is to create graduates with skills to become lifelong learners and productive / responsible members of the community. There is no one metric that can measure progress towards this objective. Schools need to utilize several metrics to create an operating picture of how well they are doing that includes use of graduation rates, SAT, STAAR, daily attendance, class size, teacher retention, trade education participation, tax rates, discipline ratios, teacher compensation to overall budget ratios, and debt service funding. All of these metrics are needed to holistically evaluate how well public schools are performing and how well an individual teacher is performing. I am not supportive of just one metric (student test scores) defining pay, accountability ratings, teacher evaluations, or student progress. It needs to be a combination of metrics.
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 do not see a strong case to use public funds for private/charter schools in most circumstances. I could see a case within rural Texas that several school districts may wish to create a special services / education program or school to serve a pooled population (such as sight/hearing impaired or autism) that crosses several taxable boundaries. In this case, it may be justified to create a mechanism at the State level to fund these public or private endeavors thereby relieving small districts from creating programs that only have a few students and hence become cost inefficient. But, as a general statement, I would not vote to create any type of voucher, tax credit, scholarship, education savings account, or other program that would substitute for public education
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 exercising the right to have professional association membership dues deducted from their paychecks at no cost to taxpayers.
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?
As a general statement, I think the role of charter schools should be minimized within the public education system except in very specific circumstances to achieve finite objectives (special education across several rural districts for example). Thus, I would not advocate for expanding the role of charter schools at this time and would defer to reducing as my initial position.
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 believe that schools are first and foremost an extension of their local community and as such should be governed and operated at the lowest level of possible such as independent school districts and local municipalities as appropriate. As such, they should have complete freedom to make decisions during disease outbreaks including whether to use face coverings and transitioning to remote instruction depending upon local conditions. As for immunizations, I believe they are a powerful tool to keep our children and our staff safe. However, recent political activism has called into question the effectiveness of certain vaccines and some local communities could opt to not require. Thus, some decisions may need to be held at a higher level of government so that we do not create a state wide health crisis especially for diseases that we have basically eradicated through vaccines (polio etc).
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 support the use of virtual education within the public education system. Business, higher education, and to some extent the medical community is rapidly moving to telecommuting and other home based (non brick and mortar office) virtual environments. Our students need to not only be prepared for this but to be able to thrive in this environment. Our public schools should prepare them for this new world. I am not suggesting that virtual, at this point in its development, is superior to traditional face to face. I am suggesting that the world is rapidly moving in this direction, and will continue to do so for economic / efficiency reasons and we have an obligation to prepare our students. Thus, I do believe that full-time virtual education can and should be expanded as its effectiveness increases and presuming that it has the support structure and staff to execute in a productive manner. As a product of a virtual graduate degree, I know that it can work. But, it requires a different approach and different resources.
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 believe that the State should be the holder of a minimum set of expectations and requirements for establishing a baseline. Then, I believe that the State should be the clearinghouse and holder of best practices accumulated from districts throughout the State and the Nation for optional / recommended use by individual districts. I do not believe that the State should be setting the entire curriculum such that the local districts have no autonomy or choice to deviate / expand when such deviations would better serve their local communities. Schools should be run at the lowest local level as possible in a non partisan manner.
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?
Additional staff and funding is needed to recover lost time and resources from the effects of COVID-19. There is funding available for such purposes but it is not flowing from the Federal Government thru the State to the districts. Or, this funding is being diverted for other purposes. When elected, I would demand that funding for schools go directly to schools to compensate for lost time from COVID-19. And furthermore, would continue to codify that funding so that it does not get reduced when we return to "normal" which may not be for quite some time.
Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey
COMMENTS SUBMITTED IN RESPONSE TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:
Public education is vital to our democracy and I am a passionate supporter. We need to work daily to provide schools the resources, oversight, and autonomy to create citizens and lifelong learners to be responsible community members in whatever endeavor they choose all while adequately funding these schools in a fiscally responsible manner to the taxpayer / public. The balance can be found and I believe that as one of the Texas House of Representatives representing District 24 that I can help the State in achieving that balance.