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Titus Benton
Texas Senate District 17
Status

Challenger

Party

Democrat

Occupation

Non-profit executive

Address

24410 Tucker House Lane, Katy, TX, 77493

Additional Information

Previously ran unsuccessfully for the Texas House as an independent candidate in 2020.

Endorsed by the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle in the 2022 Democratic primary election.

Candidate Survey Responses


RESPONSES TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:

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


It's easy -- trust teachers, compensate teachers, take care of teachers after retirement.

The shallow politicization and the angry activism as a strategy, the censoring of curriculum and materials betrays the confidence we should have in professional educators. Teachers should not have to work a second or summer job to make ends meet, and I would support James Talarico's $70,000 minimum for public school teachers. Lastly, we should not play politics with the pension of retired educators. They deserve to be treated like the civic heroes that they are.

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?

Additional funding is needed and it is available. As I mentioned above, I support raising teacher pay and retired teacher's pensions, for starters. It has always been ridiculous to me that teachers dig into their own pockets for necessary materials. More unbelievable is that so many teachers had to bankroll their own personal protection equipment during the recent pandemic.

The money exists. More money should be allocated. In part, slowing or ceasing charter school expansion would help keep necessary funds with already-existing public schools. Other spending on vouchers should be resisted, too. We've got money sitting in a rainy day fund -- I can't think of a better investment of a portion of that funding than the post-pandemic Texas education system.

Also, I'm just not going to be a phony here. I went to public school my whole life. So did my wife. Our kids went to public elementary school and had a terrific experience. They do go to a charter high school now for some reasons that were personal to us. It would be easy to not mention that, but I prefer being honest up front.

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 don't mean to sound too radical, but if we can figure out how to subsidize the healthcare of our veterans, I think we should be able to figure it out for our retired educators. I have to be honest in saying that I am not aware of all the nuances around this issue, but my commitment would be toward affordability of healthcare for all retired educators, and I would surround myself with experts on the issue and listen keenly to their suggestions, because healthcare is not something to mess around with.

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?

Texas has to provide more options. I would support converting the TRS to a 401(K) plan. I would also love to see Texas follow the lead of the states that have permitted teachers on the TRS to tap into social security as well.

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.?

Anyone who would tie test scores to teacher pay or evaluations doesn't understand the complexities of student's lives and all the reasons they may not score well. Standardized tests are useful, but they have taken on an outsized role in the way we evaluate our education system. I'd like to see those links eliminated entirely.

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?

Absolutely not.

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?

Support

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 do not think they need to be expanded. I don't have any hostile feelings toward charter schools in general, but the corruption and greed in many charter schools systems is obvious and should be penalized. If you're going to accept public funding, you should play by the same set of rules. Many charter schools don't, and they should not continue to be funded, either.

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 in local control during pandemics for the same reason I believe in local control during natural disasters -- the local leaders know what's going on the most and can react with the greatest wisdom and in their student's best interests. 100% freedom to act accordingly should be granted, in my view.

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?

Whether it is best or not, I don't know. Our best data on it was unfortunately during a pandemic when many schools pivoted suddenly and out of necessity. What I do know is that it is inevitably where we're headed. We should fund it accordingly. I was disappointed when my local district (Katy ISD) built a pretty robust system but then shut it down. I think we should continue to invest. It's an option that would work very well for many students.

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 do see a need for uniform standards in curriculum, days of instruction, best practices, etc. We have large community of experts who can lead in this and present those expectations to the district level. Still -- I think local leaders know their communities best and should be given latitude to be creative and lead at the local level as they see best.

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?

Well in the first place, I would not have placed the strain on them in the first place. Coming back as if nothing was happening put teacher's in a tense and tumultuous role. That the CRT nonsense and censorship happened in the midst of that didn't help a thing. We should cancel the standardized tests, give every public school teacher an extra check, fund optional summer school and pay teachers time and a half to work it, recruit more teachers and pay them well. There is so much that needs to be done, and we have to prioritize it over our silly culture war battles.

Additional Comments from Candidate on Survey


COMMENTS SUBMITTED IN RESPONSE TO THE 2022 ATPE CANDIDATE SURVEY:

Ms. Hoehl -- K
Miss Rasmussen - 1
Mrs. Gerdamann - 2
Miss Clendenin - 3
Mrs. Shelton - 4
Mrs. Hamilton - 5
Mr. Shelton - 6
Mr. Lowes - 7
Mrs. Ruble - 8
Ms. Sinkora - Art
Mrs. Spencer - Music
Coach Ruble - P.E.

I went to a little K-8 public school, and that's my list of teachers. I could do high school, too, I think, without missing any. I love public education in general and I love teachers in particular, because they changed my life. Really. I will always advocate for public education. It has meant a lot ot me.