Education and teacher retirement were the focus of Tuesday night’s Candidate Forum sponsored by the Hopkins-Rains Retired Teachers organization. Candidates for District 2 State Representative and State Senate along with one candidate for Lt. Governor addressed the packed City Council Chambers at City Hall and then answered questions from the audience.
District 2 Representative incumbent Dan Flynn and challenger Bill Brannon were first up. Flynn referred to the ranking of House members by educators and reminded those present he was named as one who is a friend of public education. He stated he has voted against a voucher system that would provide funding for families to use for private schools education. He also pointed to his actions to maintain retirement funding for retired teachers. He noted that he is a member of the Sunset Committee and is Chair of the Pensions Committee for the Texas House of Representatives.
Bill Brannon, Flynn’s challenger, said changes in appraisals and property tax are needed to increase funding for education and for teacher pensions. He said there are a number of departments that need change in the state naming Child Protective Services and the Department of Health Services as those needing specific work.
Kendall Scudder, Democratic challenger for the District 2 State Senate seat, told the crowd he would sound angry in his presentation and that he is angry due to the school voucher bill signed by his opponent, Bob Hall. Scudder said the bill will discriminate and prove an entitlement for the wealthy. He stated that public schools in small communities are the centerpiece of the community. He noted that the voucher system would lead to privatizing schools. Scudder said the biggest difference between his campaign and Hall’s is the funding and support of Empower Texans which he called a friend of the voucher system. Scudder said funding for schools and pensions could be found in higher taxes for high yielding gas wells. He said that would bring in billions of dollars to the state.
Although incumbent District 2 Senator Bob Hall could not be present, his representative was Andrew Greenberg, a Mesquite ISD teacher. Greenberg who teaches AP courses and Debate said there is a lot of rhetoric about education being heard in the campaign. He said opponents of Hall are using a scary rhetoric. Greenberg noted Hall’s “Promises Made, Promises Kept” slogan. He stated the slogan was a reference to teacher retirement and that the cause is important to Hall. He said Hall recognizes the current retirement model is broken and Hall plans to address the issue with new answers. He said Hall views education as the most important thing for the state and that students are the most important in the education system. He noted that Hall voted against unfunded mandates and seeks parity in pay for those in education.
Challenger Mike Collier noted the absence of Lt Governor Dan Patrick and stated that it is not unusual for him [Collier] to sit next to an empty chair at political candidate forums. Collier, an accountant, said politics will work better when those with a work background are elected to office. He stated he does not support vouchers and he has a plan to fund education. Collier said the state has made decisions over the years that have created serious revenue problems and unless those are reversed there will be difficulties to face. Regarding property tax, Collier said there is a loophole in the property tax law that allows large industrial and commercial properties to underpay their taxes. He said $5-billion dollars would be added by having those property owners pay appraised value. The power of the Lt. Governor is the power to force a vote. He said that when gerrymandering is killed the current animosity in politics will end. He said he knew he would lose the gerrymandering question in the first session but he made a promise to campaign against those who did not vote to lose gerrymandering.
Those present for the event were welcomed by Tommy Long, retired Superintendent of North Hopkins Schools, and chair of the Hopkins-Rains Retired Teachers and of the Hopkins County Democratic Party. Also present were Donnie Wisenbaker, Chair of the Hopkins County Republican Party and officers for the Hopkins-Rains organization and a number of retired teachers and members of the community.