user avatar
Sheena King
Texas House District 61
Status

Candidate

Party

Democrat

Occupation

Business Leader

Address

P.O. Box 2686 , McKinney, TX, 75070

Additional Information

King participated in a nonpartisan candidate forum hosted by the education-focused nonprofit organization Raise Your Hand Texas prior to the 2022 primary election. Watch video of that event here.
 

Candidate Survey Responses


RESPONSES TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:

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


1st - Salaries and benefits are at the top of the list because our public schools need skilled, trained, passionate and knowledgeable staff. In order to recruit, hire, train and retain there should be a deep dive of the compensation structure. Changes are needed in several areas.
2nd - Funding needs to be reviewed for our public schools as it has continually been under attack and reduced at the state level which is creating large disparities especially in the counties where the taxes are not adequate to maintain the needs of their schools. We need a more equitable way to fund public schools to address the injustices that exist today which are disproportionately impacting communities of color.
3rd - Safety enhancements should be an obvious priority including necessary resources during the 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?

Funding for public education should absolutely be increased and the state should and could contribute more funding so the taxpayers are not overwhelmed by paying more than 50% of the cost. There has been mismanagement of these funds and an in depth review should be conducted so it can be remedied immediately. We must invest in our children as they are the future of our state, our economy and reliability of funding is the foundation of this important building block.

The current funding from the state is less than 50% (of the 100% needed to fully fund) and it needs to be increased (instead of being used for other areas of government - i.e. supplanted) and we need to review how this money is invested to ensure it is not at risk based on unstable markets which have drastic volatility. Federal funding allocated for public schools should be sent to schools without any reallocation of these funds to other areas of government. Instead of grandstanding and unnecessary delays, our elected officials, school districts and the Texas Education Agency should come together and create real solutions. There are previous components of prior legislation which have not been fully funded which should be done in addition the student enrollment declines based on COVID should be re-evaluated and funded. I am committed and look forward to supporting this crucial conversation as a State Representative. We should not allow the barriers and obstacles to this funding and aid to be derailed from arriving at the intended destination which is our public schools. This is a large and complex topic which needs to include everyone at the table as we’re all directly or indirectly affected (teachers, elected officials, parents, community leaders, business leaders and education advocates).

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 this is a real issue as rising healthcare costs are definitely outpacing traditional pay increases and it sounds like this is a larger concern since there has not been any COLA or other meaningful adjustment made for the state employees (active and retired including those receiving a pension check). My process would be to initially start by meeting with all employee groups, various stakeholders (those directly and indirectly impacted) to hear all of the issues and concerns. I'd also like to review previous work done and visit with other legislative education groups from other states with similar scale and scope. Gaining an understanding of what have been the obstacles and barriers to addressing these rising costs would also be part of my research and review to see if there are viable solutions and then proceed from there on next steps. Ultimately this must be addressed as healthcare is a human right and our state owes this benefit to our educators, they must have access to and affordability of healthcare.

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 guarantee of some financial funding after retirement is what the pension plan (defined benefit plan) offers to employees and this may be the only funds available for some families and it is not equivalent to replace this with a 401k style plan (defined contribution plan). The optionality of the defined contribution plan doesn’t give the same safety and security to workers plus it may not be a feasible plan for workers who can not afford to contribute at the same level or frequency as others. If both were provided that is a different situation and I would only support it if the pension (defined benefit) remained intact along with the defined contribution 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.?

An evaluation is one that is measuring the effectiveness and quality of the process, product or service. In the case of public education and schools, there should be milestones and benchmarks used to measure the quality of educational services vs. a one time year end evaluation which is highly stressful for everyone (teachers, students, parents, etc). As an elected official, I look forward to the opportunity to review what has been done to reimagine our evaluation process for public schools and would invite thought leaders and experts in this area along with educators, administrators and other stakeholders (parents, counselors, etc.) to come together and create several viable options for review and consideration. There needs to be a balanced approach for learning, accountability and improvement/progress. Texas needs to collaborate with other states and leverage lessons learned and success stories so we can create a quality experience for our public schools. The compensation structure for teachers is critically important and is an entirely different conversation and although there is an element of performance this one time assessment of just one standardized test is not the proper way to measure and reward our educators.

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?

There are no circumstances where this is ok. Public funds should remain in public schools. It would be unconscionable to divert public funds to these other schools who have little accountability to students based on limited regulations and protections.

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?

Yes I would support the ability to exercise this right and I agree this is at the discretion of the employee on how they elect to leverage payroll deductions.

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?

Charter schools in Texas should be evaluated and legislation needs to established to ensure there is adequate training, accountability, expectations and oversight of them. The number of current charter schools in Texas should not be increased this hybrid model of public funding yet private management is concerning and should be reviewed.

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?

School districts are in the best position to know the challenges and solutions to address their campuses. They should have the autonomy to make these decisions if it's in the best interest of the schools, including the teachers, students and community. The duty of care that schools have is very high and their decision making and judgement should not be used for political reasons but should adhere to the mission of education. The pandemic is one of many emergency response plans that should have already been in place prior to COVID and to not adhere to these business continuity and emergency management plans is troubling.

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?

COVID revealed a lot of gaps with virtual learning on a full time basis however as a contingency plan it should be explored. It is an expectation that schools have conducted are maybe still gathering data for an after action review of what went well and what did not go well during COVID. We should be learning and failing forward by being open to an agile learning process where school districts have a feedback loop with their campuses to learn, adapt and change. There could be some learnings that can be shared broadly so other campuses can model. A one size fit all model may not be appropriate however school districts should have the authority to determine if a full time virtual education is appropriate when health and safety (and any other critical factors) are at risk.

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?

School districts and educators in partnership with the State Board of Education should have the decision making rights regarding public school curriculum and instructional material not the state. There should be no political partisanship that interferes with student's learning which adheres to age appropriate content.

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?

Quality education comes at a cost and we must get real about funding this investment into our future. Texans have a lot of pride and we want that same pride for our schools. As more companies relocate to our state they expect more as well. We can achieve more and it starts with the recognition of the value of our educational system so our children and future generations can become the best versions of themselves. The possibilities are endless. We need elected offices who have the discipline and fortitude to do what needs to be done. I am ready for the opportunity to help identify ways we can achieve this. Hiring and retention of educators should be a top priority for the 88th legislative session.
 

Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey


COMMENTS SUBMITTED IN RESPONSE TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:

I am a product of our Texas public school system and my family history includes educators who proudly supported our children to become the best they could be and reach their full potential. Our schools need to remain safe, healthy environments where students are able to learn and grow and teachers have the necessary resources to effectively and efficiently provide a quality education for the next generation.