Governor: Candidate Q&A

Candidates for this office were offered a questionnaire on education issues by The Parents’ Campaign. See below for responses received to date.

General Election Candidates:   Jim Hood    /   Tate Reeves  WINNER   /    Bobby Hickingbottom   /    David Singletary

Jim Hood

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family?  I am a product of Mississippi public schools. My two eldest children attended public schools in Mississippi, and my youngest daughter currently attends public school in Mississippi. 

2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why.  Yes. Mississippi’s per pupil student spending ranks last in the southeast, and, on average, we spend more than $1000 less per student than our neighboring states. Adjusting for inflation, Mississippi spends less on education than before the Great Recession. We must reverse this disturbing trend. As governor, I will include in my legislative agenda each year a recommendation to fully fund MAEP. I’ll work with legislators to cut waste in state government and identify innovative funding mechanisms to ensure our children are prepared for success through a quality public education. 

3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi’s citizens need to lead productive lives? As governor, I’ll open the state’s budget and cut out all the insider deals and tax giveaways to large, out-of-state corporations championed by the current leadership in the Capitol. In doing so, we’ll identify and eliminate waste we can use to fund services like education and mental health that Capitol leaders have cut over the past eight years. As attorney general, I recovered over $3 billion for Mississippi taxpayers and, as governor, I’ll find a way to fund state services Mississippians rely on. 

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not?  Yes. Mississippi’s public schools are severely underfunded, and we rank near the bottom in per pupil spending on education. I don’t think we should take taxpayer dollars away from our public schools and put them into the hands of private organizations that aren’t held to the same accountability standards as our public schools. Additionally, many of the private institutions receiving these funds hire public school educators because they don’t have the staff certified to offer needed services. Mississippi shouldn’t give away public school dollars for private schools to turn around and hire public school teachers that would otherwise provide these services. 

5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? Yes.

6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that public school special education services should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state annually since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why.  Yes, I do think public school special education services should be fully funded every year. As governor I’ll cut government waste and insider deals to free up money for services Mississippians need. Over the past four years, the Legislature has earmarked an average of over $11 million per year in Dept. of Education bills for specific vendors and programs. Several of those vendors are campaign contributors to legislative leaders. Eliminating waste like this is one of the methods I’ll use to pay for underfunded services like special education in our schools. 

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high-quality early childhood education statewide?  Yes. One of my education policy platforms is to phase in a statewide pre-kindergarten program for Mississippi four-year-olds using the existing Early Learning Collaboratives program as a model. Nearly two-thirds of Mississippi kindergartners fail the kindergarten readiness exam, while, on average, those who attended an early learning program scored above the readiness benchmark. Early childhood education attendance is associated with higher levels of education and increased adult earnings. Investing in an effective statewide pre-kindergarten program is the most important investment we can make in Mississippi’s future.

8. The nation's top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children?  There are several steps legislators can take to alleviate stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems for Mississippi K-12 students and their families. One of the easiest steps is to accept federal dollars to keep our rural hospitals open and expand health care access. In states that have expanded health access, newly accrued medical debt has decreased by 30 to 40%. Medical debt is a driver of poverty, and, here in Mississippi, we lead the nation in medical debt rates among non-elderly adults. If Mississippi takes steps like this, we can help reduce some of the barriers our children and families face, setting them up for success in school.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants?  Yes. I support increasing Mississippi’s average teacher pay to the Southeastern average.

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their state retirement while serving in the Legislature?  Yes. 

11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies?  n/a

12. Legislators receive tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that may contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How will you respond to this pressure?  n/a

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Tate Reeves     WINNER

NO RESPONSE


Bobby Hickingbottom

NO RESPONSE


David Singletary

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? My son is twelve, I have an MBA and paralegal degree. I’m from the hotel industry, my cousin’s husband is superintendent over Grenada County.

2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why. Yes, I’m bringing a nine billion dollar industry to the state, the increase in revenues will fund education, give raises and make sure the kids have all the supplies they need.

3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi’s citizens need to lead productive lives? I will consider every source of revenue. “Case in point” I think cannabis is a good source of revenue and Tate Reeves doesn’t. Everything is on the table. You have to educate your way out of poverty.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? I think the government should be responsible for a basic level of educational or vocational classes. Though K-12 should have lunches. Anything above and beyond that should be paid by private sector.

5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? Equal across the board, based on national levels. Keep Mississippi competitive.

6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that public school special education services should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state annually since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. Jesus said take care of the meek and the weak, this includes handicapped. I have become ½ crippled with my back in recent years. It has given me a different outlook on handicapped people and the struggles they face.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high-quality early childhood education statewide? A child’s personality is 90% formed by age six. I would think more emphasis would be placed on these developmental years.

8. The nation's top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children? Parents are stressed and stretched thin. There are signs of trouble at home. At what point do you call it an invasion of privacy? Do you hold the parents accountable?

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? I believe in raising the teachers pay to the top 50% of the country. I will pay for it with increased revenues from the cannabis industry.

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their state retirement while serving in the Legislature? Yes.

11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies? I will seek the advise of David Daigneult of Grenada County schools. He’s my cousin’s husband. You may base my judgment on his opinion. I believe in Vo-Tech at age 14.

12. Legislators receive tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that may contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How will you respond to this pressure? I’m independent, I owe none of them favors.

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Michael Brown (defeated in primary)

NO RESPONSE


William Compton (defeated in primary)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I am a retired high school Science and History teacher and I had 2 of my children enrolled in public school.

2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why. I think that the MS Adequate Education Program should be fully funded every year. Our Legislature is robbing our children of their future and putting the money in their pocket. The legislature refuses to fully fund the MS Department of Revenue and consequently the department cannot conduct audits. The state has had a budget short fall of about 1 billion dollars annually and no one knows where the money is. I will ask the Internal Revenue to audit the MS legislature. I am looking for support for a Constitutional Amendment that will make the MS Code of Ethical Standards law with fines, penalties, disbarment and prison. The process would be over seen by a 9 member commission elected from the 9 Supreme Court districts. The MS Bar Association is not a state agency and does not represent the people of MS, it represents and defends lawyers against the people of MS. Licensing of attorneys would be conducted by the Commission. The MS Bar Association would be left to do what is does best, throwing drunken parties on the coast.

3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi's citizens need to lead productive lives? I will use the Governor's discretionary funds to help the MS Department of Revenue find these missing funds even going so far as to audit every elected official in the legislature. The process would be over seen by a 9 member commission elected from the 9 Supreme Court districts.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Yes. I do not think public money should be used to fund private schools.

5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? Yes. I think any school accepting public funds should be accountable to the people of MS.

6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that special education services in public schools should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state every year since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. The funding is there but it is being diverted to politicians' pockets. The IRS needs to audit the MS Department of Revenue, especially state tax credits. Any MS taxpayer can take these tax credits whether they qualify or not because MS does not conduct audits. All you have to do is lie. You will not get caught because MS does not conduct audits. Please don't do this.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes I agree. Educating our people is the key for a successful future.

8. The nation's top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children? Fully funding education is the key to solving a lot of our problems.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes, I support raising pay.

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their retirement while serving in the Legislature? Yes

11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies? Before supporting a bill affecting education I will seek input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents. I will be advised by the many people I have met while teaching.

12. Legislators receive tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that may contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How will you respond to this pressure? I will work for the people of MS and not the lobbyists.

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Robert Foster (defeated in primary)

NO RESPONSE


Robert Ray (defeated in primary)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? Only what is in the news about how they are inadequate.

2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why. Yes, I will take money my Professional Development process will save from the prison system to fully fund the (MAEP). The issue is no money, my process is a money creator so there will be enough money to fund education in MS.

3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi’s citizens need to lead productive lives? Listen parents, first you must have a tool for creating revenue, I have that tool in my PDP. Like I stated above the billions saved from correcting the recidivism in the MS prisons will free up billions of dollars for other services.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Yes, I will oppose these vouchers, the reason is that it creates confusion and little accountability. It will be too easy for theft to take place. I will have one school system for MS. If other groups wish to start school, religious, home or virtual, etc. they must use their own funds not the citizens of MS. It also is another way for segregation and separation to take. All of MS’s students should grow together no matter what race or religion.

5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? Yes, like I stated above but, the quality of education in MS must include high quality teachers and that is where my PDP comes in. It will give the teachers in MS more than other teachers in other states will not have.

6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that public school special education services should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state annually since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. Yes, again money is the solution, my PDP will create ways to bring money to MS. Example, when other states, come and by the process to fix their prison that will bring billions of dollars to MS and special education will get their portion.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high-quality early childhood education statewide? Yes.

8. The nation's top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children? I have the solution for those problems. I will have trained teen Professional Development Counselors and Therapists to assist the teacher with these issues and that will let them do their job which is teaching the sciences.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? I support raising teacher salaries to the top in the South because they have the most difficult students in the Nation.

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their state retirement while serving in the Legislature? Yes, why should they have penalized because they were able to stay healthy and young enough to pull this off.

11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies? When I am Governor there will be simple understanding in anything coming from capital pertaining to public school. Keep it simple stupid (KISS).

12. Legislators receive tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that may contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How will you respond to this pressure? I will always make my decision based on the needs of the MS citizens. One thing I am most proud of in myself is that I can not be bought, my integrity is not for sale.

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Robert Shuler Smith (defeated in primary)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I am a product of Jackson Public Schools, having graduated from Forest Hill High School. I have also had the pleasure of teaching students during bible study, tutoring, and as an adjunct Professor at Jackson State University. I am well qualified to understand the needs of our students.

2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why. Yes. I have witnessed MAEP’s efforts to be fully funded every four years. However, these efforts have not been welcomed by some in the Legislature. A recent State Auditor’s findings show that fully funding our teachers and MAEP is within our means to do so. If we do not pay for our education, then we will certainly pay for it later.

3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi’s citizens need to lead productive lives? We must prioritize education as one of the most critical areas to adequately fund. There are a number of sources of state revenue, but those funds are not used to fund education. I will also attract new businesses that will provide jobs and careers for our citizens, which includes a major economic plan in agriculture.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Most likely I would consider vouchers under extraordinary circumstances, such as bullying and other areas that require such alternatives. However, we must fully fund our schools to address the needs of all students. We would evaluate on a case by case basis under certain circumstances.

5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? Absolutely. Any educational institution that has the benefit of taxpayer funding should be held to the same standard.

6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that public school special education services should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state annually since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. Yes. We must fully fund special education every year and correct the pattern of under-funding special education programs. Addressing the needs of special education will begin with an open and honest dialogue between special education professionals, legislators, and a Governor who has a heart for all students.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high-quality early childhood education statewide? Yes. My grandfather, Robert L.T. Smith, was one of the founding members of Head Start in Mississippi. I have seen the positive impact of early education while growing up in Mississippi.

8. The nation's top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children? Our teachers should have adequate assistance from an on-site mental health professional and/or licensed social worker(s). Social workers are a key part of helping our students cope with challenges that they will face.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes. I have a number of teachers and educators in my family. My mother, Alice Smith, taught school at Jackson Public Schools for over 25 years. Teachers should not have second jobs to make ends meet. We can attract the best teachers with competitive salaries comparable to the southeast region.

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their state retirement while serving in the Legislature? Yes.

11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies? Absolutely. Our legislators, especially the legislators who have served multiple terms, should know that a bill should be studied before passing it. Our principals, superintendents, and other education professionals should be notified about a potential bill. There should not be any bills passed until these education professionals are allowed to address these issues before arbitrarily supporting bills that affect our educational system.

12. Legislators receive tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that may contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How will you respond to this pressure? We will address lobbying issues through legislation and inform the constituents of pending issues via email, text, and other forms of communication. The constituents must be able to weigh in on critical issues, otherwise, it is contrary to our democratic process.

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Bill Waller Jr. (defeated in primary runoff)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I am a product of Jackson Public Schools and my wife was a teacher in the Jackson area. We have multiple other members of our family involved in education, including my wife’s family who taught in the Alcorn County school system. The quality education I received at Murrah High School laid the foundation for my career as an attorney and Supreme Court Justice. I recognize that a strong education system is an indispensable part of moving Mississippi forward. My three children attended private schools in Jackson for religious and methodology reasons. I’m fully committed to supporting public education which provides 90% of our citizens with education through high school.

2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why. Education must be funded at a level that gives our educators the tools they need to teach our children. We cannot underfund education and I am committed to making sure teachers receive pay raises quickly until we at least reach the Southeastern average in teacher pay in our state. And, a teacher pay raise doesn’t need to just be an election year tactic—that needs to be part of a real commitment every year to reach our goal of paying our teachers the salary that rewards their work and professionalism, and retains and attracts new, good teachers in our state. Teacher pay is a crisis right now that needs to be a top priority because we have more than 1,000 teacher vacancies across the state.

3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi's citizens need to lead productive lives? I will prioritize crucial state functions - education, infrastructure, and health care - and fund those priorities first before moving on to any other issues. To move Mississippi forward, we must improve in all three of these areas because these are the foundational pillars of a strong economy. No company is going to expand or locate in Mississippi without an educated workforce, a good health care system and a strong infrastructure system of good roads and bridges. We haven’t had a comprehensive road program in 32 years in our state and we must do better than that to fix our crumbling roads and bridges. We have 5000 miles of state highways and 400 state bridges that are in poor condition needing repair, posted or closed. We’ve got to do better than that to ensure a growing economy that provides a strong tax base to help fund our schools and a teacher pay raise.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? We need to focus on letting the current laws regarding charter schools work and examine the results before making any further decisions on vouchers. We need to instead focus on increasing teacher pay to retain and attract quality teachers, and reexamine the testing systems in place to make sure we don’t have too many burdensome tests that don’t necessarily measure success. I am in favor of completely re-examining how we go about testing in schools and would seek input and advice from teachers, administrators, parents and students to put a better plan in place. We don’t need last-minute backroom deals at the State Capitol when it comes to education policy or any other legislation for that matter. We need a transparent process that includes teachers, administrators, parents and students’ interests.

5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? All schools funded by public funds should be held accountable to the taxpayers and schools receiving public funds should be accredited.

6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that special education services in public schools should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state every year since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. Part of the responsibility of state government is to ensure children with special needs receive quality educations. I am committed to improving the current situation with additional resources, more teachers, and more emphasis on special education to make sure special education services are funded properly to serve students.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes. I believe Mississippi would benefit from high quality early childhood education. We have many needs and areas on which to improve, and I want to work with stakeholders around the state to see what progress we can make as soon as possible to make this a reality.

8. The nation's top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children? Making sure our children have a positive school experience starts at home and with our teachers. By raising teacher salaries to the Southeastern average as quickly as possible, we can keep good teachers and attract more good teachers, and to help fill the teacher shortage crisis that we have in our state. Mississippi has 1000 teacher vacancies and we must make it a priority to address the teacher shortage. We need to support teachers by ensuring qualified counselors are available to handle behavioral, compliance and general environmental issues of students so the teacher can focus on teaching and not social issues. With 1,000 teacher vacancies in our state right now, that makes class sizes larger which makes for a more difficult environment and that’s another reason we must address the teacher shortage crisis in our state.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes. I plan on raising teacher salary until we reach the Southeastern average as quickly as possible. This is necessary to keep our best teachers right here in Mississippi and to attract new teachers to this important profession.

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their retirement while serving in the Legislature? Yes, of course. We need to do as much as we can to ensure retired educators have the opportunity to serve in the Legislature just like anyone else who wants to run for that office.

11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies? Yes. I always believe in seeking input from those who are most directly involved in any issue. We are all Mississippians, and I am running for Governor to improve this state for everyone, so I will always seek advice, counsel and input to reach a consensus to do what’s right and what’s best for our state. I have hosted teacher town hall meetings all across the state over the last several months, and have met with superintendents and administrators so I will continue to rely on our educators who are on the front line each and every day.

12. Legislators receive tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that may contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How will you respond to this pressure? Throughout my time on the Mississippi Supreme Court, I’ve never been beholden to any party leaders or lobbyists and have always put Mississippians’ best interests first. That is exactly how I will serve as Governor if people will give me the opportunity to serve and I would be humbled, honored and appreciative of everyone’s vote.

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Gregory Wash (defeated in primary)

NO RESPONSE


Velesha Williams (defeated in primary)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I served as a 2nd and 4th grade teacher at Barr Elementary School (Limited Service), Jackson Public School District (JPSD). Additionally, as Director of a Community-based Drug Prevention Program at JSU, I provided direct service to K-12 public school students using evidence-based drug prevention curriculums. My husband retired from JPSD after 25 years. My family and I attended public schools.

2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why. Yes! During my administration we will move legislation forward to fully fund education.

3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi’s citizens need to lead productive lives? During my administration, we will evaluate funding streams to ensure adequate funding is allocated for the following priority areas: healthcare, education, infrastructure, economy, criminal justice reform, and environmental protection. To ensure this occurs, funds will be earmarked instead of being placed in the general fund where funds get manipulated.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? My commitment is to adequately fund our public school system. This can be achieved by ensuring MAEP is fully funded. I do not believe that we can adequately address the shortfalls in our public school system by diverting funds to other programs. I will not support a voucher program over fully funding public education.

5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? Yes! I believe all systems should be accountable to the citizens of Mississippi for the responsible distribution of taxpayer dollars. Additionally, quality education should be guaranteed for all students. Disparities within and among schools and school districts will be corrected.

6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that public school special education services should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state annually since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. Yes! I will fight to ensure adequate funding is appropriated to fully fund special education as part of the MAEP.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high-quality early childhood education statewide? Yes! We must provide every opportunity to ensure our students have a strong foundation.

8. The nation's top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children? Pass legislation that provides a livable wage for all Mississippians. Protect and enhance programs designed to provide Mississippi children and their families resources such as: free/reduced lunch, healthcare coverage including mental health services, affordable afterschool care, etc.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes! Teachers and assistant teachers deserve to be treated with respect and honored for the work they do in educating our youth. The least we can do is ensure that teachers receive a comparable and competitive salary. This issue will be addressed during my administration by fully funding MAEP.

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their state retirement while serving in the Legislature? Yes! Retirement pay should not be adversely impacted by a desire to serve in the Legislature.

11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies? Yes! Decisions made by legislators affect all our citizens. Mississippians deserve to know that legislators are making an informed decision. During my administration, we will hear from key stakeholders and when appropriate, hold listening sessions as well as research issues to ensure our decisions are fact-based and in the best interest of Mississippians.

12. Legislators receive tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that may contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How will you respond to this pressure? I will not cower to party leaders, corporate lobbyists, etc. I will be working on behalf of all our citizens to create “A Better Mississippi.” If legislation is introduced that harms our community, I will veto it.

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Albert Wilson (defeated in primary)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? My experience with K-12 public schools involves providing a source of integral support to at-risk students in the public school setting through my non-profit organization, Genesis & Light Center. After school tutoring is provided year round for grades K through 12 for students that need help in achieving their academic goals by keeping the tutorial services available which helped to maintain their grade level, based on their age. I have been instrumental in making information available through the media and workshops so that parents and public schools would have access to available services that could benefit their children . The overall goal of our youth program is to help students in excelling academically. I have also assisted children through G&L’s annual summer camp, where some of our former students have been offered multi-million-dollar scholarships at high school graduation. Part of the services made available to these students included STEM courses, Arts and Crafts, Language Arts, Math, Reading, Technology, and Drama. I have educated three children of my own, as well as assisted in educating children of other members of my family. I also taught high school math at Murrah High School in Jackson, MS.

2. Do you agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) should be fully funded every year? If yes, what actions will you take to ensure full funding? If no, explain why. I strictly agree that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program should be fully funded. Why not? We are talking about the well-being of our children. Why shouldn’t Mississippi provide the funding that would assist in making sure that our students have the best education, and equal opportunities to achieve on the highest level possible, in both public and post-secondary education arenas. To ensure that the children of Mississippi have the same and equal opportunities as others throughout our nation and other nations abroad, it would be my goal to invest the highest level of resources available for education to have the best educators in our schools, and of course, make sure that the educational materials needed to achieve this venture are available at all times through whatever means are available to get the job done.

3. What will you do to ensure state revenue that is sufficient to provide all of the services Mississippi’s citizens need to lead productive lives? Mississippi has an over five billion dollar annual budget. First thing, I will do a detailed inspection/analysis of our budget and remove wasteful, unwise, or excessive spending then use these savings toward services to help citizens lead productive lives. I will also invest some of the state’s revenues from our new state lottery to improve the quality of lives of Mississippians, especially in educating our students.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Mississippi’s educational system ranks well below national average therefore we need all that help we can to improve the quality of education for our students. Parents deserve choices. I will not oppose vouchers sent to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools but I will hold any educational entity which receives taxpayer dollars accountable to taxpayers using the same accountability measures as public schools.

5. Do you agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools? I agree that all K-12 schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including private voucher schools, should be accountable to taxpayers for the quality of education they provide, using the same accountability measures as public schools.

6. Public schools serve the vast majority of Mississippi students with disabilities. Do you agree that public school special education services should be fully funded every year? (Special education has been underfunded by the state annually since 2008.) If yes, how will you accomplish full funding? If no, explain why. I do agree that public school special education services should be fully funded every year. I will reach out to our federal government in finding additional funds which can be allocated toward Mississippi students with disabilities. I will also stress fiscal transparency and accountability within the MS Dept of Education (MDE) to help remove wasteful, unwise, or excessive spending to best utilize State funds throughout all parts of Mississippi.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high-quality early childhood education statewide? Thirty years after Mississippi established statewide kindergarten and made school attendance compulsory starting in first grade, classroom readiness remains a major obstacle to student success in our state, which has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the country and test scores that are consistently among the nation's worst. Yes, I agree that Mississippi should provide high-quality early childhood education statewide.

8. The nation's top teachers say that the greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students are family stress, poverty, and learning and psychological problems. What steps do you believe legislators should take to alleviate these obstacles for Mississippi children? Some of the barriers mentioned above can be alleviated by creating programs that afford parents options for having a better way of life where they have economic shortfalls in their families. Stress is generally caused by low incomes and not having enough to sustain a family. If jobs are created that provide a higher level of wages for low-income families, it would definitely remove some of the stress. Parents need income sources that would allow them to afford insurance. Medicaid is not always the best source to take care of medical problems in a low-income family. The income level versus the family size does not always ensure that children, and even parents, can remain healthy in a society where there are so many obstacles and difficulties. Economic conditions assist in increasing school dropout rates, when parents have to get second jobs and high school students a first job, especially in single-parent homes. Legislators may assist with eliminating some of the aforementioned barriers by becoming more involved in what the real issues of poverty that families are having in order to get a better idea of how they can help to turn things around. I am sensitive to mental illness that threatens some of our students and will work to pass legislators to address mental and psychological issues.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? I fully support raising teacher salaries to the levels of our neighboring states, because all educators responsible for academic achievement of our school populations should be paid at the same level for doing the same work. If our teachers are making sure that the students they have labored with during the school year have excelled and mastered the benchmarks set forth for their academic achievement, then they should all have an adequate and equal grade of pay as educators in other states. Likewise, teacher assistants should receive pay equal to other states’ teaching staff. Their work will speak for itself, and if they have proven their abilities to assist with the learning process, then they should be able to get the proper income for their services and hard work.

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their state retirement while serving in the Legislature? I do agree that retired educators and other retired state employees should be able to receive their retirement funds, while working in legislative positions, if they have been elected to legislative positions. They have worked and paid in the resources that are needed for their livelihood while serving in their varying positions of employment; and that money is theirs, because of the time they have put in while working and serving in the workforce. After all, the salaries of legislative positions is not nearly enough to live off of.

11. Legislators have little or no staff to help them understand the many bills they must consider. Before introducing or supporting a bill that could affect public education, will you commit to seeking input from teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents of public school students in your district? Who will be advising you on education policies? Absolutely. I will go the extra mile to seek input from those who are more knowledgeable about what is needed in public education on a statewide level.

12. Legislators receive tremendous pressure from the leaders of their chamber (House or Senate), state and party leaders, and corporate lobbyists, to vote in ways that may contradict the will of their constituents and harm their communities. How will you respond to this pressure? Legislators should fulfill their moral obligations in their positions while serving in public positions. They should never make promises to their constituents that they cannot keep. People should not be given the impression that legislators can work miracles [and gain trust falsely] from those in lobbying and other leadership positions. Promises broken, that were never a guarantee should not have to be accounted for, when a legislator cannot follow through on what is promised during their campaigns.

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