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Thomas Garcia for State Board of Education
On The Issues
I am a life-long student, and that is what excites me most about our campaign. It gives me a platform to listen and learn from nearly 2 million constituents in District 2.
There are many issues facing our public education system, but here are my positions on a few that have emerged on the campaign trail. Want to learn more about my positions on issues? Contact me.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of our students, families, teachers, and staff. I believe the Texas Education Agency must do more to address this growing mental health crisis in our schools by granting more financial, educational, and professional resources.
On the SBOE, I will be a vocal advocate on this issue by soliciting input from school districts to ascertain which resources are necessary and fight to secure them. In addition, I support funding initiatives that reduce the administrative workload of teachers, many of whom are experiencing burnout, leaving the profession, or retiring early.
In November 2021, the SBOE approved instructional materials by QuaverEd that include mental health instruction for K-5 students.
I support this, and I believe such initiatives must be expanded and cultivated. Mental health should be taught in schools, period.
Students, teachers, and staff must feel safe at school in order to learn and work. That is why I support adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required school immunizations, just like polio and tetanus, with medical and religious exemptions permitting.
On the SBOE, I will advocate to the state health officials to make this a reality so we can save lives and finally live in a post-pandemic world.
More information on currently required immunizations can be found on the Department of State Health Services website.
Find a vaccine provider near you here.
We need more transparency on how tax dollars are spent in our public education system and easier accessibility to this information.
A prime example of this issue occurred in October 2021, when the Texas Education Agency opened testimony for revising the Charter School Performance Framework. The SBOE and Texas education organizations should have been more than advocates in this process. The elected SBOE should have had a hand in revising this framework from the beginning, and the education organizations should have been more involved.
Moreover, families need to be engaged by the state on these bureaucratic decisions. Families must be provided more relevant, accessible information on what decisions like these mean for their children. I will work hard to do so on the SBOE.
TRANSPARENCY AND OVERSIGHT
As a graduate and former teacher of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, I have seen first-hand the power and impact of dual language instruction.
I support the expansion of dual language programs throughout the state of Texas so our students can graduate from high school prepared to participate in an increasingly globalized society.
The bilingual student will have greater career opportunities, enhanced cognitive functions, and more cultural awareness. We need more bilingual students.
To truly prepare our students for the 21st century, we must actively teach our students how to discern facts from fake information on the internet. This is a crucial skill that should be taught in all core courses.
From statistics on websites to misleading news articles, the digital age requires students to understand objectivity and truth. In addition, teaching our students to identify bias in online spaces, such as social media headlines or editorial blogs, is necessary to understand our overflow of information online. On the SBOE, I aim to implement these curricular standards into core courses.
COMPUTER SCIENCE AND PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES
I support expanding computer science courses to more middle schools throughout the state. Moreover, it is not enough to merely offer computer science courses. Texas needs a plan for K-12 computer science that clearly outlines learning outcomes, course goals, and implementation strategies for making computer science truly an essential and effective course. I will be a vocal advocate on this issue.
I am a vocal supporter of ethnic studies, and I will continue to be so on the SBOE. I support expanding Mexican-American Studies and African American Studies to more schools. I support adding Asian American Studies to our state's ethnic studies offerings. I also support making ethnic studies courses eligible for social studies credits, not just elective credits.
I am against Texas SB3, which removes requirements to study specific works by minorities and women. This bill is a step backwards on all fronts, but particularly for ethnic studies. We should be encouraging more, not less, studies of minorities and women.
We should attach our learning standards not merely to scores on a test, but to projects that actually make a difference in the world. That's why I will advocate for service learning curriculum development at any grade level and in any subject.
My PSJA ISD course was founded on a "Change Agent" project that involved students researching an issue in their communities, gathering the data and means to address it, measuring the impact, reflecting on the impact in writing, and then advertising the impact to the community. The learning outcomes that emerged from this course are why are I support integrating service learning projects into our curriculum standards.
21ST CENTURY LEARNING STANDARDS:
Texas needs to do better than offer "Personal Financial Literacy" as an elective course. The curriculum for PFL should be integrated into high school math courses so all students can be prepared to enter society with financial literacy.
In their core math courses, students should learn the basics of budgeting, loans, and interest rates before graduating high school. I support implementing curricular standards in high school math courses focused on real-world applications of interest rates, such as comparing subsidized and unsubsidized student loans.
MOVING AWAY FROM
STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
High-stakes testing is counterproductive for students and educators alike. I support shifting educational accountability standards away from test scores and toward concrete learning outcomes based on Texas HB5 endorsements. For example, students in the public services endorsement should be doing service learning projects, not being subjected to drill-and-kill learning. Moreover, I support implementing research "capstone" projects in the arts & humanities endorsement courses.
The learning outcomes from activities like these should reflect our true accountability standards, and tests like the STAAR should be used merely for diagnostic purposes.
I am a proud ally of the LGBTQ+ community. No student should fear going to school and being harassed or bullied, especially our LGBTQ+ youth.
That's why I support teaching students about topics such as sexual orientation and gender identity in health and science classes. Moreover, middle school students should learn about how to prevent forms of bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. In doing so, our students will learn tolerance and respect during a crucial period of growth and development.
Too often, we hear of miscommunication and lack of cooperation between school districts and families of students with special needs. The State Board of Education should serve a more active role in filling in these communication gaps by providing statewide resources in English and Spanish for families wishing to enroll students in special education. Moreover, the SBOE should establish guidance standards to school districts on how to provide recovery services for students previously denied access to special education.
TEACHER EVALUATIONS AND T-TESS
Since the 2016-2017 school year, T-TESS has served as the standard evaluation system for teachers in Texas public schools. T-TESS was developed by a committee of teachers, principals, and representatives from higher education and educator organizations. I believe the SBOE should be granted greater oversight and authority over the T-TESS so revisions can be implemented via an open and democratic process.
When teachers are evaluated, their evaluator should always be a qualified individual in the subject matter. Moreover, the evaluation rubric should be focused on what the teachers have in their control; the T-TESS domains currently do not separate between teacher and student performances. Furthermore, teachers should not be penalized for low "school community involvement" if they cannot participate in school outreach activities because of disabilities, parental responsibilities, or other legitimate reasons.
MR. MATT KRAUSE'S
BANNED BOOK LIST
I am an educator and a writer. I believe in freedom of speech and intellectual freedom. That is why I am wholly against state investigations into school districts' library books and subsequent book bans.
There are far more pressing issues facing our state's educational system than which books occupy our libraries. Instead, we should be focused on increasing reading competencies and developing critical thinking skills.
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