Lt. Governor: Candidate Q&A

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

Candidates:  Delbert Hosemann  /  Jay Hughes  /  Shane Quick

Delbert Hosemann (winner of primary)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I have visited and worked with hundreds of K-12 public schools throughout my tenure as Secretary of State. Our Agency oversees Promote the Vote, a non-partisan civic engagement program helping teach students about the importance of voting and getting involved in their communities. As State Land Commissioner, I also spearheaded revising our 16th Section land leasing process to ensure districts receive fair value for land leased. When I leave this Office, we will have raised about $1 billion for public education in 16th Section land revenue.

From a personal perspective, my family has been committed to helping children with autism and other developmental disabilities receive treatment. To this end, our family has helped fund programs to train behavior analysts and teachers at the University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University. Last year, we began offering scholarships at Holmes Community College to teachers interested in learning more about Applied Behavior Analysis, the leading form of treatment for developmental disabilities, as it relates to classroom learning and behavior. Fifteen teachers finished the class this spring with their tuition paid and are now in the classroom.

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. Fully funding our public schools is a goal we will and must move toward. Public schools educate more than 90 percent of our children. Our State’s future depends on the success of our public schools. In terms of finding necessary funds, cutting unnecessary earmarks in appropriations bills, increasing efficiency in state government, eliminating duplication in state-funded efforts, and moving education to our top priority are good initial steps.

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? On the spending end, we need to continue eliminating waste, duplication, and earmarks unnecessary to the delivery of services Mississippi citizens need. At the Secretary of State’s Office, our budget request this year was less than the budget we started with in 2008, despite providing more services. I intend to bring the same discipline to the state budget.

On the revenue end, we have to grow our economy without incentivizing our way into debt to lure businesses. Our unemployment rate is at a historic low, but our labor participation rate is only about 56 percent, compared to the national average of 63 percent. When more of our citizens are skilled and working, our tax revenues increase, which solves budgetary problems across the board. My goal will be to increase the labor participation rate each year, and I will focus much of my time on this issue.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? For Mississippi to succeed, our public schools must succeed. Considering the budgetary problems our public schools are facing, diverting more funding from public schools to any of these entities is not an option.

Every special needs child deserves a quality education and is legally entitled to one. If a school cannot provide the services a child needs, he or she should have the opportunity to attend another area public school which will meet his or her educational needs. If another area public school cannot provide necessary services, the child should have the opportunity to attend a school qualified to provide such services, provided there are accountability measures attached to state money received by the school. Every teacher I have spoken to has said our emphasis should be on the well-being and education of the child.

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 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. Yes, special education services will be funded and our special education teachers will be appropriately compensated. Every child deserves a quality public education, including our children with special needs. Our special education teachers are saints. They have told me of their high burn out rates and concerns about class size. We will emphasize training, recruitment, and retention, including economic incentives, for special education teachers.

In terms of finding necessary funds, cutting unnecessary earmarks in appropriations bills, increasing efficiency in state government, eliminating duplication in state-funded efforts, and moving education to our top priority are good initial steps.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes, studies show the earlier we engage our students in high-quality pre-K, the more likely they are to succeed in the future. I support funding all of the Early Learning Collaboratives, which have shown success, and raising the quality of Head Start programs across the State by co-locating programs on public school grounds and engaging in partnerships with local school districts.

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? At the school level, we must invest in school psychologists, nutritionists, and other support services. We also have to embrace innovative solutions as options for public schools, like alternative school calendars, which help solve systemic achievement and other problems in some communities.

From a broader perspective, we need to break the cycle of pervasive poverty by growing our economy, and helping those who are out of work become skilled and find meaningful work. Career and technical skills can be compressed into K-12 public schools in partnership with community colleges to offer strong economic job opportunities at a younger age and lower cost to students and families. When people are working and earning a meaningful wage, families are stronger and healthier.

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 pay to rates which are at least competitive with neighboring states. Teacher assistants, who have a crucial role to play in classroom learning, must be valued as well.

A very important part (but a part which receives less attention) of raising our average teacher pay to be more aligned with the southeastern average is resolving our teacher shortage crisis. We need more experienced teachers staying in our classrooms for longer periods of time. We also must offer opportunities for retired teachers to re-enter our teacher workforce.

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, and my understanding is PERS is working on a new rule now. I believe it is unlawful to restrict retired educators’ ability 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? Absolutely, and my record speaks to this issue. As Secretary of State, whether we were revising our archaic business laws, drafting autism insurance coverage, or implementing voter ID, our approach always was to bring interested parties of all perspectives into the same room to talk about how to move forward. This allowed us to build a broad constituency for any problem we were trying to solve. I plan on operating the same way as Lieutenant Governor, valuing the collective intellect over a singular point of view. I have expressed this to education advocacy groups, parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents across the State. My Office will always be open to the public including the education community.

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? Many times when I am visiting with students in Mississippi classrooms, I am asked about a public servant’s most important attribute. My answer is always “a rudder.” My job is to act according to my conscience and, regardless of any political pressure, to make Mississippi a better place for all our children and grandchildren. I plan on carrying out my duties with this always in mind.

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Jay Hughes (winner of primary)

» See Voting Record

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? A lifetime! My parents, siblings, and cousins all attended public schools. I attended public schools my entire education, from First Grade through Law School. I've been a parent of a public school student, a volunteer, a substitute teacher, test proctor, and advocate for public schools for many years, long before I ever entered public service.

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. Absolutely! This is why I ran for office in 2015, the Initiative 42 struggle. I have also introduced legislation supporting the same, and fought against all efforts to dismantle or replace it. What actions I would take to ensure funding would begin with hearings from real stakeholders in Mississippi schools on what efforts are duplicated or wasteful, reform MDE that is contractor heavy, reduce standardized testing and terminate wasteful contracts, and apply for a waiver with ESSA to switch to ACT and Work Keys. I would also change that the lottery proceeds go to education like they do in other states. I would further encourage and incentivize more sponsorship opportunities between local businesses and school districts, and encourage tax credits and dedicated spending of donations. When the standard is only "Adequate" and we don't even meet that funding, it is totally unacceptable.

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? Quit giving away revenue when we cannot provide for basic services. Terminate sweetheart deals. Provide for combined purchasing power of agencies and best price guaranties from vendors. We simply cannot continue competing in corporate giveaway contests with neighboring states who have more money and population. Even when we win, Mississippi loses. Our governor got a Golden Shovel award, but our economic growth is the lowest in the Southeast, and one of the lowest in the country during the best economic growth in 50 years.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? Absolutely. Always have, always will. Anything that takes money from our struggling public schools hurts everyone, particularly those left behind. If schools were properly funded, all needs of all students could be met including counselors, dyslexia therapists, autism therapists, and all else that improves the quality of education for all students.

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. And they should also have to provide the same financial disclosures of spending.

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. Yes. Same as my answer above.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Yes. It is crucial. It sickens me to hear others claim it would just be a babysitting service.

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 agree. A good start would be to have school counselors be supplemented by an actual psychologist per district, or even per set of k-12 schools within a district that has more. I would also provide for a certificated program within our community colleges for parents of school children that would allow them to get a trade from our community colleges, or connecting them with the resources and connections that can advance a trade of skill to help them out of poverty.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Yes. Every single day, every single year. The most important person in education is the teacher at the front of the classroom who has the chance to broaden a mind and ignite a flame to its brightest potential. A quality teacher and retention is the key to all educational success.

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

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. We definitely need transparency and REAL hearings on all bills, not just those impacting education. I'm proud of my willingness to know I don't know everything and need to seek input from those actually in the trenches. I'm equally proud that some of the members on my K-12 Education Task Force included three principals, two superintendents, two district business managers, three previous Teachers of the Year, two parents of special needs children, a coach, two PTO presidents. There are a host of others that I run things past and have worked diligently with in the past, and all in helping draft my proposed education plan if I am elected. Best of all, if I really want to know how people feel or the potential unintended consequences of an education issue, I just post it on both facebook pages and get 29,000 pairs of eyes on it.

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? Like I always have: I do what's right and risk the consequences. It's just how God wired me.

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Shane Quick (defeated in primary)

1. What is your experience with K-12 public schools, personally and/or with your children or family? I attended pre school, k-4 private, and 5-12 public. Family as a whole were public school graduates. A nephew is public schooled and a family member is teacher assistant. As a side note I have a hearing impaired and attended some special classes.

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, providing there is no associated taxation increases, and that all waste within the system is managed and/or eliminated.

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 tend to think along lines of lower regulations and taxation for the citizenry. These two things make life easier for citizens, therefore potentially more productive as the citizen has more control of their earnings. There are some untapped sources of revenue from the corporate world that may be worth looking into as well.

4. Will you oppose vouchers that send taxpayer dollars to private schools, religious schools, home schools, or virtual schools? Why or why not? On the premise all citizens pay taxes and children have different learning styles/needs I would like to leave more avenues for learning open.

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? Not all children or learning styles can be held to the same standard. There is, however, a basic functional level that should extend laterally across all styles of education, barring excessive cost.

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. Barring increased taxation, eliminating waste and using our assets wisely would be the key. Looking into the possible causation of such widespread disability may be needed as well.

7. Do you agree that Mississippi should provide high quality early childhood education statewide? Assuming no taxation increase then I could see it being beneficial. Districts are not all the same so absolute uniformity may not be the solution.

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? Homework is a major detriment to most kids and single working parents, or if the homework exceeds the educational ability of the parent. Keeping school at school could make life easier for many children. Parents, however, do need to be informed of what is taught at school to stay current on what their children are exposed to.

9. Do you support raising teacher salaries at least to the level of our neighboring states and raising pay for teacher assistants? Barring taxation increases it could be a great thing. I do know school superintendents make a disproportionate paycheck off our tax dollars compared to just about every other position in the educational system. Lowering taxes would in effect be more bring home money for teachers and assistants as well.

10. Do you agree that retired educators (and other retired state employees) should be able to draw their retirement while serving in the Legislature? Honestly- in one way I can see how a job versus an elected position are 2 distinctly different ways to receive pay. From the vantage point of being a low income common Mississippian myself I do see how a vast number of voters would feel knowing a retired educator/state employee turned legislator would have lived their entire life on the taxpayer's dollar.

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 would have to be exposed to people in the know once elected. As I am a common working man at the moment I do not know people in that realm. Teachers and their assistants could potentially be some of the best type of advisors based on my current understanding of the 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? I have my own way of thinking, for better or worse I tend to stay the course. As a final note, if I am elected by the people and chosen to transform from a common low wage Mississippian into an elected official armed with knowledge afforded by the position I may be exposed to and learn things along the way that will reshape my point of view on things and how to be of service.

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