Sep. 19—This November, Texas voters will see two education-related propositions on the ballot: Proposition 4 — which, if approved, would authorize the state to send a total of $7.7 billion in surplus funds to school districts and require the districts to give homeowners a $100,000 homestead exemption; and Proposition 9 — which, if approved, would allocate $3.3 billion in surplus funds to a cost-of-living increase to pension benefits for retired school employees.
With both proposals on the November ballot, education is as big a topic this election cycle as ever. In view of these measures as well as other issues affecting education, candidates for the vacant District 2 spot in the Texas House of Representatives spoke with members of the Greenville Area Retired Teachers and (school) Employees association and Northeast Texas Retired Teachers Association Thursday.
When each of the six candidates stepped to the lectern at the meeting, they each expressed support for Proposition 9 and giving retired teachers a cost-of-living increase.
Sulphur Springs Republican Heath Hyde, whose father was a dairy farmer and biology teacher said, "I am very much for Proposition 9, because my mother relies on that check, so rest assured, I'm not gonna vote against my mother."
On a similar note, Van Republican Jill Dutton said, "Oftentimes teachers and school employees are not choosing this career path because of the money. They're choosing it because they want to help students, they want to help kids, they want to give back to their community and one of the only incentives is the Teacher Retirement System."
While Hyde, Dutton and the other three Republican candidates all also gave support to the proposition, the one-and-only Democratic Party candidate, Kristen Washington of Greenville, not only spoke in favor of Prop 9 but also said that she believed that retirees should get an annual raise instead of just the occasional cost-of-living adjustment.
In addition to speaking on Prop 9, another issue several of the candidates addressed was school choice/vouchers.
"I believe it's the parent's choice to best determine the educational path for their children, but my greatest wish is to make sure all of our schools are performing so well that there's no desire to leave," Doug Roszhart of Greenville said.
Another candidate who spoke strongly in favor of school choice was Brent Money of Greenville — a practicing attorney who is also a former public school teacher.
"I don't think it's an us versus them kind of thing," Money said. "I think every parent, every family needs to decide what's best for their kid.
"I have five children ... one year, my wife and I had kids at L.P. Waters, PTAA, GCS and homeschool and she got them all where they needed to go because that's what we thought was best for each of those kids."
"God did not give my children to the state government and he didn't give my children to the good teachers in these schools. He gave them to me and he commanded me to raise them up," Money said.
One candidate at the meeting who spoke against school vouchers — which are redeemable for tuition fees at private or parochial schools — was Washington.
"We've fought too hard for equality and the voucher system is another method of discrimination, especially for students with disabilities," she said.
In addition to the matter of school choice, a few of the candidates also made references to "culture wars" in education.
On this topic, Royse City Republican Krista Schild voiced displeasure with the "nanny state's" pushing of ideologies like diversity, equity and inclusion education, and critical race theory.
"I think anything that eliminates from what you have sown in and what your spouse has sown in [your children] sends you down that socialist road," Schild said.