RUSK — Two candidates responded to a survey sent out by Rusk ISD to poll potential state leaders on their stance on education issues.
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Below is the full survey given to the canidates with their reponses:
SURVEY for POLITICAL CANDIDATES
Following is a survey created by the East Texas visioning consortium, made up of superintendents and education leaders in Region VII. This survey relates to key education issues you will be dealing with should you become a member of the legislature.
We ask that you answer each question and provide any comments you may have regarding each question. If you prefer not to answer “yes or no” questions, please provide comments on the topic being asked in the question. We feel it is important that voters know how you feel about education issues that affect our children, our employees and our communities.
The results of this survey will be used to compare the issues among candidates for office and will be distributed to every education institution in your voting area. The results will also be released to newspapers, TV stations, and posted on school websites around the State to inform voters of where their candidates stand on the issue of public education.
Currently, Texas schools are funded under a target revenue system, where some schools are funded at under $5,000 per students and others are funded at over $10,000 per student. The inequity in the school finance system is the cause of a current lawsuit being filed against the State.
1) Will you support legislation that will require all State funds going to schools to fall under a “formula” system, meaning all students would be funded based on a “weighted ADA” system, essentially guaranteeing all students equalized funding, no matter what their zip code?
__Yes, I will support this legislation.
__No, I will not support this legislation.
__I would support a variation of this.
Clardy comments: The current system funds which students differently simply because they live in a different zip code, is fundamentally inequitable to countless students and educators across the state. Texas needs and deserves a level playing field for all of its students. We must find a solution that uses the vast resources of Texas to best educator our students.
2) If yes, to the question above, will you support legislation that disallows grandfather clauses, or hold harmless clauses to essentially block true equalization of funding?
__Yes, I will support legislation that makes changes in funding without grandfather clauses or hold-harmless agreements?
__No, I believe hold-harmless and grandfather clauses should be used to insure higher funded districts do not lose money in any new school funding plan.
Clardy comments: While I would support an implantation process that is phased in to avoid harming districts that have become reliant on those funds, I will not support a grandfather clause. That defeats the purpose of the legislation and does not promote fiscal responsibility.
Many legislators are telling voters that education received “more money” in the last legislative session, although it is a fact that on a per-student basis, education took a tremendous cut in funding.
3) Do you believe that education funding was actually increased during the last session and that any cuts to staff, programs, or budgets were the responsibility of the local educators?
__Yes, I believe education funding was increased last session and any cuts to staff or programs were the responsibility of local decision makers.
__No, the legislature cut funding for education and local officials did what they had to do, based on the funding they received.
Clardy comments: The Legislature failed to account for the hundreds of thousands of new students that will join the educational system within the decade. Some say these cuts are temporary but I know education is permanent. We can’t afford to lose another generation of students due to the inaction of the last Legislature.
Currently, Texas uses a “high stakes test” system as the primary source of information to determine if a school is doing well or not and is also the primary measurement used to determine if a student graduates or not.
1) Will you support legislation that would do away with high stakes testing as the primary way to evaluate schools and return testing to be used as an evaluative tool to show progress?
__Yes, I will support this legislation.
__No, I believe high stakes testing is the best way to hold our schools accountable.
Clardy comments: Schools must be held accountable to parents and taxpayers, but high stakes testing is the wrong mechanism to do so. Test should be used as a way to determine how schools and students are progressing so we can identify students who need additional attention and get them the tools they need to be successful. Not every student learns the same way but having high stakes testing assumes that they do. These tests do not allow our teachers to be innovative in the classroom and forces them to worry about students’ test scores and not whether they are actually learning.
2) Will you support legislation that changes the number of tests being given, the frequency of these tests, and the elimination of tests for students who are high performers? For instance, one idea may be that if a student scores 95% on Math in 3rd grade, they may not have to take another standardized Math test until 6th grade to ensure they are still on track.
__Yes, I would support legislation that drastically changes the testing system.
__No, I believe the testing system is fine the way it is.
Clardy comments: If a student has consistently proven competency of a subject area then there should be mechanisms in place that allows for that student to not be subjected to testing every year. At the high school level, students who have continued to show mastery of content and who have demonstrated college readiness via a national test (STA or ACT) could also be exempt from continued testing.
The NCLB Federal rating system requires all schools have a 100% passing rate by year 2014. Having all students pass all tests nationally is, of course, an impossible standard to meet. In Texas, we continue to increase our standards, require higher passing percentages, and then rate our schools based on the sub-group of students who score the lowest.
1) Schools agree that we need an accreditation system that protects students and requires a literacy standard. If elected, will you work to bring some common sense to the accreditation system?
___ Yes, I will support legislation that is designed to provide a simple accreditation of schools.
___ No, I support the system as it currently exists.
Clardy comments: We need a simple accreditation system that everyone can understand and does not just focus on those students who score the lowest on a test. We need to be recognizing the positive steps our teachers, students and schools make, while we also work with those students who fall short to make positive steps toward meeting required standards.
2) Currently, an entire school district is rated based on the lowest score on any test, subgroup, or grade level of a standardized test. Will you support legislation that would end the practice of rating our school based on the lowest common denominator?
__Yes, I will support legislation that ends the practice of rating schools based on the lowest score of all tests given and would base ratings on a broad range of data.
__No, I believe schools should be rated on the lowest score of all the tests given.
Clardy comments: We can’t just look at the students who fail to meet state and federal requirements. We must celebrate our teachers and students who achieve success and recognize districts that make great progress in educating our young people. This does not mean that we ignore those who fall into a sub-group that do not meet standards, we must still institute safeguards to ensure they do not get left behind, is simply means that we provide positive incentives for having students progress and success.
3) Currently, students who show academic growth in an accountability tested subject are not recognized for any progress or growth and are considered failures. In spite of their progress, these students count against the school and their ratings. The TPM (Texas Projection Measure) credited schools for progress, but this measure was eliminated last year. Would you support crediting students for making progress who did not meet the required standard?
___ Yes, I would support such legislation.
___ No, I believe students either pass or fail.
Clardy comments: While I appreciate the hard work teachers do and applaud them for helping students improve, if the end result is a student falling short we must honestly acknowledge that and work to help them meet required standards. Regardless, our focus must be on truly educating students and not a preoccupation with rating schools.
4) Will you support legislation that eliminates accountability measures of which local schools have no control? For instance, students in special education go through an ARD committee comprised of administrators, teachers, diagnosticians, and parents. The number of students in special education, what classes they are enrolled in, how much time they spend in a special education classroom, etc. are ARD decisions. These type decisions should not negatively affect a school district or its ratings.
__Yes, I will support legislation that eliminates these measures from negatively affecting a school district’s ratings.
__No, I believe these data should still affect school ratings.
Clardy comments: Schools should be held accountable based on measures within their control. Populations like those in special education need to be protected, but those sub-groups should be separate from the factors that determine a school’s accountability rating. Just like every student has individual needs, each school district is different and faces unique sets of challenges. We must identify those subjects school districts can control and work to excel in those areas, while identifying the obstacles they face and provide them the resources to develop exceptional students.
Currently, the State Legislature has mandates for schools that take away decision making from local administrators and elected leaders, such as the 15% rule for EOC grades, one curriculum path for students, school start days, etc.
1) Will you support legislation that returns control on key issues back to local communities, school leaders and their locally elected board members?
__Yes, I will support legislation that returns control of local issues to local officials.
__No, I believe it is important for the State to mandate and control these matters.
Clardy comments: School districts need to be given more control on how they handle their district. I will oppose any legislation that passes along unfunded mandates to school districts or any mandate that coerces a district to act in a way that it knows is not in the best interest of its students. I oppose the last legislature’s actions in mandating that EOC’s count 15% of a student’s final grade. Decisions such as a student’s grade, GPA and class rank need to be handled at the local district level where teachers and administrators know the student and how to measure their ability.
Currently, Texas schools are required to follow the 4 X 4 curriculum, requiring students to have 4 years of Math, Science, English and Social studies to prepare our students to be “college ready” when they graduate. While this may be a good goal for some, the reality is that many students do not want (or need) to go to college, but would rather begin a path to a productive career that does not require college.
1) Will you support legislation that allows local schools to create pathways that are best for their students? Some pathways may include: college prep, fine arts emphasis, career and technology emphasis, etc. All of these pathways should be developed by local school officials with input from their communities, and approved by elected board members.
__Yes, I believe in local control of the curriculum, with very minimal state requirements.
__No, I believe the State should mandate the curriculum, required courses, etc.
Clardy comments: I will support any legislation that returns more control to school districts and encourages them to develop vocational and technical courses that give students an opportunity to develop a trade or profession that will make them marketable upon graduation. Not every student is destined to go to college and the state needs to stop forcing this upon them. We need to stop treating education as a “one-size-fits-all” program and work to provide educators and students viable, real world options in pursuing post-graduate opportunities.
Each session, various forms of “vouchers” are brought to the legislature. Some are in the form of tax credits and others simply take money that would go to local schools and allow parents to take that money to help pay for private school or home school.
1) Will you support legislation that supports any form of a school voucher for home or private schooling?
__Yes, I will support legislation for vouchers.
__No, I will vote against any form of voucher system.
Hopson comments: I would only support any form of vouchers if that local school board adopts and local districts vote on such a measure.
Clardy comments: I will not vote for any voucher bill. I do not believe it will serve the best interest of education in Texas.
Public schools in Texas have restrictions against recruiting athletes, whereas private schools are allowed to recruit and select their student population. If public schools and private schools were placed in the same district, one school having the ability to select the students who attend their school (and actively recruit them) would put public schools at a tremendous competitive disadvantage.
1) Will you support legislation keeping private schools from entering the University Interscholastic League?
__Yes, I will support keeping private schools from being admitted into the UIL.
__No, I support allowing private schools to enter the UIL and compete against public schools.
Clardy comments: The current system for both public and private schools works well separately yet allows competition on a voluntary basis.
Teacher Retirement System (TRS)
TRS is a “defined benefit” plan for retirees and many believe it is one of the best public pension plans in the country. Some have called for moving the public education workforce into the social security system or into individually defined contribution plans, such as a 401(k) plan.
1) Will you support keeping the TRS system in place as a defined benefit plan for retirees and insure the Legislature continues to fund the system to make it actuarially sound?
__Yes, I believe TRS should remain a defined benefit plan for our retired school employees.
__No, I believe we should look at other options for school employee retirement plans.
Clardy comments: While I will always support examining ways to improve any state service, TRS should not be changed without the support of educators, both retired educators and those currently in the classroom.