Issues

Education issues_Suzanne Smith

Issues

Education Funding

The Texas economy is thriving, ranked No. 6 nationally by U.S. News and World Report. But, I have become increasingly concerned that our education system is not keeping pace with our needs – we are currently ranked No. 37* in the country. If we do not make innovative and smart decisions over the next decade to change our course, tomorrow’s future will be dimmer. I have closely monitored the progress of the Texas Public School Finance Commission and am encouraged by many of their recommendations. If elected to the State Board of Education, I will do everything in my power to encourage our legislators to take action on these recommendations in the upcoming session. My goal is to take this fight to Austin to make Texas No. 1 in education and prepare our children to be the global citizens of tomorrow. *U.S. News and World Report, 2018 Ranking

21st Century Curriculum & Testing

Since I attended public schools, the world has changed significantly. We have entered a new global economy – powered by technology, fueled by data and driven by knowledge. We need to address how education can adapt to the 21st century, both in what we teach our students and how we teach them. Students need and deserve a customized, relevant and modern education that equips them with 21st-century skills and prepares them for the changing workforce. Curriculum is a piece of that puzzle, and the way we deliver education has largely remained unchanged. Texas needs to be on the leading edge of this transformation, while also staying true to the essentials – a great teacher, a functioning and innovative school with strong leadership and parental involvement, and a stimulating peer environment. We must also balance our need for data and accountability with our need to ensure that our students are on track. It is clear we haven’t yet found a solution that sufficiently meets Texas’ need to hold teachers and schools accountable in a uniform manner, while also guarding against “teaching to the test.” If elected to the State Board of Education, I will do everything in my power to get to the heart of these issues and ensure all our children are on track for their future.

Priorities

While there are many priorities that are important to our future, there are five that stand out:

    • Strong start – The statistics are clear. Quality early education from birth to third grade provides the highest ROI (return on investment) for the future success of our students. I will continue my decades-long work championing efforts statewide to support expansion of high-quality pre-K to full day for students in Texas.
    • Whole child – We all want to raise children who are healthy and prepared for their future – academically, physically, and socially. Research is conclusive that developing social and emotional skills – such as resilience and grit, and creativity through the arts – not only complement learning, but accelerate academic achievement and help kids overcome obstacles throughout their lives. I have spent almost two decades in Dallas advancing causes that support innovative approaches to working with vulnerable children and helping them overcome challenges. I want to bring this experience to the State Board of Education and ensure our curriculum leads to young Texans who are resilient and creative.
    • Successful finish – We currently measure success in schools by the high school graduation rate, but it shouldn’t end there. We need to define and embrace different avenues of success to prepare our children for their future. Completion of the 12th grade needs to lead to a future path, such as:

      • Enrollment at a two- or four-year college
      • Employment in a high-demand job that pays a living wage
      • Enlistment in the Armed Services

      This revised standard requires the creation of a system that vertically integrates with community colleges and other higher education opportunities. It will also entail more involvement by the business community to assure we are teaching the skills necessary for students who want to begin a career after high school. I have worked closely with these partners to develop just such a system and look forward to taking it to the next level as a member of the State Board of Education. I want to see all students have a path, not just a paper, which allows them to reach for their dreams.

    • Special needs & gifted education – Special education and gifted education should function within and as a part of the regular, public school framework. Unfortunately, our funding issues have strained our ability to identify as well as provide resources for these exceptional children. I want to work with parent and teacher groups dedicated to bringing the best thinking to Texas in these areas and ensure that we are doing all we can to support these students.
    • Educator recruitment, excellence and retention – Educators are the biggest driver of student success. But, attracting and retaining quality personnel has been one of our biggest failures as a system and a community in North Texas. We must address both the root cause of this failure and the issues that have resulted in our teacher shortage. As I have said in my speeches across the district, “In the same way that our military protects our democracy, our educators create democracy.” I will fight alongside my fellow educators to ensure their voices are heard in Austin – both at the State Board of Education as well as the state legislature.

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