To inform readers about the candidates seeking their votes on the November ballot, the San Antonio Report asked all candidates to answer the following questions. We edited answers for clarity, not substance or grammar, and we did not fact-check responses. We restricted responses to 200 words for each question.

Read other candidates’ answers here.

Position sought:

State Board of Education, District 5

Party:

Democrat

Incumbent?

No.

Link to campaign website:

www.voterebecca.com

Age:

70

What is your educational background? Where did you go to school growing up and what is the highest level of education you completed?

Morgan Township High School, PhD

If you have completed higher education, what degrees or certifications have you earned and from where? In what years did you complete these degrees or certifications?

BA, MA, PhD from Indiana University

What is your current occupation, employer, and job title?

Professor of English, Director Media Studies Minor, Texas State University

List any previous elected offices that you held and the term you held that office. List any elected offices you sought and the years you sought those offices.

Why do you feel you are the best candidate for the office you are seeking?

I’m the best candidate because of the breadth and depth of my experience as an educator and community leader. As the mother of two graduates of Texas public schools and a teacher at Texas State University, I will restore respect for teachers and public education. Students need real science, technical skills, literature, art, music, statistical and financial literacy, and inclusive history. They need health and science classes that provide comprehensive sex education, biology and chemistry that teaches climate science. We need educators, not politicians or ideologues, on the State Board of Education, to give our students a 21st century education for a new economy and a changing society. Our board needs leadership, not an outdated curriculum and expensive high-stakes testing that wastes taxpayer money, frustrates teachers, administrators, parents, and students. We need teachers who have a strong background, an engaging curriculum and the best available text. I’ve trained teachers and worked on student retention with Texas State president, and I understand how high school students transition to higher education and jobs. We must keep students safe and prepare them for the future, whether it’s work or higher education. I can help teachers give students resilience, adaptive skills and make them lifelong learners.

What three issues do you feel are most important to your constituents?

District 5 voters vary in their opinions, but they all want a curriculum that helps students succeed, they want a fair process for expressing their views on education, and they want conscientious and knowledgeable people making judgments about what and how students learn. SBOE District 5 voters are in northern Bexar, southern Travis and all of Blanco, Caldwell, Comal, Gillespie, Guadalupe, Hays, Kendall, Kerr, Llano, Mason, and San Saba, but I view my constituents as all citizens of Texas, since education affects everyone in Texas and beyond. Some of the most controversial issues involve cultural values and identity, including historical, ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, and gender categories. People view education as a way to prepare children and young people for a complex and challenging world. SBOE should work with teachers, researchers and subject area experts to determine the most current and useful information about knowledge and skills students are expected to understand and master. It is not the board’s job to dictate opinions or attitudes; rather it is to outline the methods, research, arguments and categories that will give students the tools to make their own decisions and ways to learn and grow as individuals and citizens of the United States.

If you are elected, what will be your top priorities once you take office?

My top priorities include establishing a meaningful relationship with fellow board members so we can work together effectively, improving our process for including citizen input in decision-making, introducing information that helps us set priorities that make sense and address our most urgent needs first. Given the unusual circumstances of COVID-19, it makes sense to address changes teachers will need to make in order to adapt to online teaching. I will work for a curriculum as inclusive as possible, so students will feel their voices and experiences are part of their education—regardless of racial, ethnic, economic, disability or gender categories. In addition, Texas must stop ignoring climate change, since our storms, droughts, and economic boom-and-bust cycles will only worsen with time, affecting how and what students learn. The board should urge legislators to establish a Digital New Deal that provides dependable broadband for all of Texas. The science, biology, chemistry, and health curriculum should offer students an understanding of the interrelated aspects of climate change, from heat-trapping gases to historical economic motivations for clinging to fossil fuel sources of energy. SBOE should advise the Permanent School Fund to begin transitioning from investments in carbon-based energy to renewable, sustainable energy sources.

For incumbents: What accomplishments are you most proud of during your time in office? Is there any vote or decision you would change now looking back?

N/A

For non-incumbents: Would you do anything differently from the current representative holding the office you’re seeking?

As a mother of two daughters who graduated from San Marcos public schools, I will champion public schools and teachers and be much more rigorous in oversight and approval for charter schools. I will also respect the hard work, research, and recommendations coming from subject-area experts and teachers in advising on curriculum. I will urge board members to educate themselves on the science surrounding geological, oceanographic and atmospheric records, global warming, historical records, comprehensive sex education, nutrition, health, and best practices for an inclusive curriculum that addresses different learning styles, incorporation and equity for students with learning and physical disabilities. I will recommend research on the beneficial effects of play, exercise, art, music, and relaxation in improving learning and retention. I will also visit school boards, teachers, superintendents and students in my district to determine issues that interfere with their ability to learn. I will encourage TEA to permanently suspend STAAR testing as an ineffective assessment method that may help some entities to profit from students through sales of text preparation and tests, but it offers neither useful comparative nor longitudinal data, since these tests are only used in Texas and they change every few years.

How do you assess State education systems’ performance during the pandemic and the way they served students?

Texas hasn’t had consistent leadership during this pandemic, and they’ve failed to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Texas has been engineering a system that favors private charter schools, for example, by allowing them to reject certain students or to have all online classes, while forcing public schools to have in-person classes or else face funding cuts. Texas was failing our students before that, not because we don’t have excellent and dedicated teachers and administrators, but because Texas undercuts their efforts in myriad ways. Texas is behind most other states in its curriculum and support for education. Texas ranks 43rd in the nation the bottom fifth of U.S. states in an annual report on education quality, 45th in school finance and 49th in per pupil spending, (accounting for regional cost differences), spending $7,957 per student, far below the national average, $11,667 per student. While it is the legislature’s responsibility to allocate spending, SBOE should be a much louder voice in demanding that Texas at least rise to the position of average. Our SBOE is ridiculed nationwide, with the current District 5 representative once bragging about giving public school teachers “a spanking.” We need a teacher with a clear vision for education.

How do you plan to work to overcome academic gaps that may have developed or widened during the pandemic?

I would recommend targeted summer vacation camps, online and in person, following cell models used by sports and competitions like the Tour de France bicycle race. SBOE could facilitate teachers and student workshops in a hybrid class model, with outdoor activities and games online. The most effective way to learn is to turn it into a game, and we should help teachers cooperate and share ideas for what has worked for them in online classes. We need to have broadly available training for using Zoom, which is a deep program that has more capabilities for engaging students, even very young ones. We should also look at engaging experienced teacher in distance learning who might not feel comfortable with in-person teaching, and we could recruit grandparents and family members to act as one-on-one tutors for students with learning disabilities or difficulties maintaining attention in an online setting. Instead of having schools compete for A-F categories, we need a non-punitive sharing of best practices that will improve all of our schools and benefit all of our students. Experiment with Iowa Skills tests (which don’t encourage “teaching to the test’) for selected grades, to benchmark progress but not punish schools or teachers.

San Antonio Report Staff

San Antonio Report Staff

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.