mykidzliberty blog was born out of frustration with the Texas public school system. I was very disheartened to learn over time that many of the problems facing education are being exacerbated by the same Republicans that I dutifully voted for, as a Conservative Christian, native Texan. Most frustrating to me was that another Texas mom, known for homeschooling her own children and touted as a Conservative, is the chair of the Texas State Board of Education that is allowing our kids’ academic education to be stolen from them. It was her blatant, continual refusal to acknowledge what she is doing in her role that caused me to seek more information about her Democrat opponent.  Following, you will find the unedited responses to questions from mykidzliberty by Dr. Dakota Carter who is the opponent to Donna Bahorich for the SBOE seat in District 6.  This won’t be the last we hear from him on the blog.  I liked his answers.

How did you become interested in the State Board of Education? Describe the circumstances that led you to run for this position.

Education is very important to me. I grew up in West Texas in a small community that was built around the school. I knew all my teachers growing up, parents and the community were involved, we had small class sizes, and learning was individualized. I can still remember hands-on learning experiences that would not be allowed in today’s system. I am blessed with amazing parents that always pushed for me to succeed; with that support and encouragement and through my wonderful school, I was able to graduate as Valedictorian and become the first person in my family to go to college.

I paid for college with an academic scholarship and by substitute teaching. Through those classroom experiences, I knew I wanted to become and educator, but I also saw a real need to help special needs children. After college, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend medical school and graduated to specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry. My training has allowed me to help kids with special needs, autism, and learning differences. It’s an amazing job that also has allowed me to continue to teach every day. I have written and continue to develop material for medical students and residents. I have written texts. I am also pursuing a second doctorate, in education, to be a better teacher and mentor. But more importantly, I am in contact with families every day that have a child that struggles in the classroom. This is also accomplished with kids with no special needs that interact with two education non-profits I founded and manage.

These stories have grown more tough, however. It’s now my special needs child AND his brother or sister that are struggling. I have treated children that are having panic attacks, anxiety, and stress related to over-testing/high-stakes testing. I talk to families frustrated with education, but unsure of where to turn. My partner is a teacher that struggles with a curriculum designed to teach to an exam and fulfill standards that are developmentally inappropriate. And, probably like those that read this blog, I became more fired up about education. I realized those in Austin making decisions regarding curriculum, textbooks, technology have no idea what they are doing. Special interests are corrupting our system, and our kids’ futures are for sale. Non-educators are making decisions without classroom experience, without understanding the detrimental effects of approving curriculum that is not research-based and focused on assessment/outcomes, not learning. We are focused on putting public tax dollars into private schools through vouchers and promoting charter schools, many of which have unelected boards making decisions with no community input.

Our current District 6 representative has been unresponsive to parents, teachers, and students over the course of her first term. Enough was enough—I ran for the Democratic seat and built grassroots support, actually talking to the stakeholders in education that should matter: students, parents, and teachers. And now, we are one election away from putting an educator on the board with no ties to special interests. I want to give back to the community and offer the same opportunities to students (through education) that allowed me to be where I am today.

What are your thoughts on TASA and TASB?

I know little about the actual organizations, but have read through policy stances. I understand that they continue to advocate for improving the College and Career Readiness Standards and actively submit policy proposals to the SBOE. I agree with their positions against vouchers, charter schools, and teacher evaluations being tied to testing. I agree with their advocacy for funding for various education initiatives (teacher-retirement, pre-K, student success initiatives) and limiting high-stakes testing. The organizations are Common Core advocates, however. I am not completely clear on how much of a role the play towards the SBOE, but I am sure they have an agenda that is sent to each member regarding their stances. My decisions would take all perspectives in, but would focus on what is best for the District 6.

Are you aware that Texas’ College and Career Readiness is in essence Common Core? What is your position on the Common Core State Standards Initiative? What aspects of education do you support federal government involvement?

Texas, with the waiver for testing (extending our 100% pass rate until 2020 or the next waiver is passed), signed on to meet the CC requirements along with “accountability” requirements. We do this with the curriculum and STAAR. More and more of the TEKS/CCR are beginning to reflect Common Core language. I have a hard time when a bureaucrat in D.C. promotes control over our schools, especially when the curriculum offered (and the way it has been implemented) is very inflexible. While I can understand setting basic minimum standards, federal control of every standard is overreaching. I have read through much of the CC standards—not all are bad. However, much of Common Core is too focused on conceptual learning and achievement versus concrete, factual learning. Specific areas, like math, are very much developmentally-inappropriate. The other issues are that CC must be accepted, as is, with limited editing/revising of the standards. It’s expensive to implement. Little validated research has been done with Common Core. The standards and program are also very much in favor of high-stakes testing, accountability, and tying performance to teacher/administration salaries. We have to do what is best for Texas’ students—much of CC does not meet that requirement. I am 100% behind Texas having their own appropriate, fact-based standards developed by education experts and teachers/families.

My opponent is adding Common Core to our standards at an alarming rate—no questioning, no research, no understanding. Concepts like federalism, separation of church and state, reflections on our freedom and liberty, and American literature are being withheld from our standards. With no actual education experience, the easier it is to take what the government offers you to do your job. I will use my expertise and understanding of education to always question and implement what I think will make our kids the most prepared for the future.

Are you aware that the 21st Century Learning Reform models are structured under the UNESCO Education Agenda 2030?

Yes, and funded by the Gates Foundation. It’s the globalization movement. Globalization can be debated with pros and cons, but my focus and the reason I am running is to revamp Texas’ standards to ensure our kids are fundamentally educated to enter the workforce and/or college adequately and competently prepared. I am worried about the globalization model because our current standards (including Common Core implementations) are not preparing our kids for their future now, globally or otherwise. Education should be local. The globalization model has introduced many of the concepts above that I disagree with as noted (vouchers, teacher pay models, testing models, curriculum that is developmentally inappropriate, etc).

What are your thoughts on shifting our students to social/emotional learning models with less emphasis on academics and more emphasis on attitudes, behaviors and beliefs?

This is a tough question for me as a psychiatrist. I will always advocate for rigorous, developmentally-appropriate academics. The social/emotional learning should begin at home, but part of schooling (informally) is learning how to exist in a diverse world while holding onto your personal attitude and beliefs. It’s also a place to expand your horizons. The focus should always be on academics, but we do not live in a vacuum.

How do you feel about American public education shifting toward creating better global citizens, moreso than creating educated American citizens?

I don’t think you can do one without the other. I’m personally not opposed to being a better world citizen, but I do that as an American citizen. We live in a diverse, fast changing world—students should be exposed to our global society that exists today (many already are through social media, television etc.). The issue is ensuring that our kids can compete, hold onto to their personal beliefs, and have an education system here that is better than anyone else’s. We cannot continue to be world leaders if we let education go by the wayside, or have communities that do not value or have equal access to education. Our focus should be ensuring all our youth have the basics and are getting a broad, fact-based, and quality education here at home based in principles we hold true.

What are your thoughts on the Commission on Next Generation Learning and Accountability? How do you think this initiative will improve or otherwise impact our classrooms? Should technology be mandatory in the classroom?

I look forward to reading the report in September. I wish there was more parental and teacher involvement. We need more people with a stake in this, participating in the process. Despite “community meetings” (very low publicity and attendance) and a biased online survey, there is little community input in this process.

I hope that our assessment process is completely altered to help our kids. We must get away from high-stakes testing. It is detrimental to our kids, our teachers, and offers no real information on anyone’s success. Our curriculum is flawed, therefore our tests are flawed. This has been demonstrated time and time again (we continue to waive students through, our pass-scores have remained stagnant, with those same pass scores being in the 50% range, etc.)

Our tests are not going to improve until we correct the curriculum. You cannot test our students on a curriculum that is not appropriate or correct. The number of TEKS are staggering and with the addition of Common Core and the revisionary processes of the board in regards to history/science/social studies, our kids are getting a hodge-podge of information in the classroom and then tested upon it. Despite what many want us to believe, we continue to teach to STAAR. We are no longer focused on learning in the classroom—we are more concerned about the data we can collect from our kids based upon a flawed curriculum and high-stakes test. I would advocate for assessments that are diagnostic. We should use multiple measures that capture classroom learning that are not tied to “student success.”

Technology should be supplemental. We also have to address privacy concerns, funding, community resources, etc. Many are touting technology as the answer—and it can be helpful. But we should continue to focus on teacher-class relationships that are supported, and not overtaken, by technology.

Do you support the social justice movement being introduced into Texas classrooms as part of the equity initiatives that are gaining popularity? In what capacity? How do we ensure equality in the classroom without singling out special interest groups?

My view on this is that we need to ensure that our curriculum is accurate. Our current curriculum continues to revise or present a false narrative in many areas. In today’s standards, we are removing many minority contributions to our history and country: Texas and America were founded by a diverse group of people that should be fairly portrayed. We are currently debating a misleading Mexican-American Studies textbook, we have had issues in describing civil rights and slavery’s role in this country, and Moses is claimed to be a founder of America (just to name a few). For me, it isn’t about adding or promoting social justice in the classroom—it’s ensuring accuracy and factual information to our students. Accuracy is not a special interest.

How do you feel about public/private partnerships in K-12 education?

Our tax dollars should remain in public schools—I am anti-voucher and taking precious resources from our public education system. One of the best components of our public schools is their management by an elected board—representation based on what voters demand. Many private schools and charter schools lose this representation, which is vital to ensuring that our schools and education system stay accountable. Our current board is promoting these partnerships in an effort to have government take over our schools.

What are your top 3 priorities if elected to this position?

Developmentally-Appropriate curriculum with less emphasis on high-stakes testing: revising and advocating for a curriculum that prepares our kids for college or the workforce

More transparency—increase community, teacher, and parent input through forums, town halls; our current representative is very unresponsive to parents or answering community questions.

Investment in fact-based, college-ready textbooks: Our current textbooks are skewed to present one side of a story; this does not prepare them for the rigor and dependence on research-based facts that is expected in college.

What future role do you see classroom teachers involved in as it pertains to truly reforming education?

My website sums this up well:

 Our greatest assets are our students and their teachers: Your classroom, Your kids, Your decisions. I will take counsel from current and past teachers and administrators to advocate for our districts. Educators should be making the decisions for their schools.

Describe your vision of the ideal public education:

Ideally, the ideal public education involves students, parents and teachers in decisions that affect them. We return to basics—our kids should not be data or a score on a test, but an individual that interacts with an educator to reach his/her potential. Learning and teaching should become the focus again. Small class sizes, more family involvement, more individualization. We should have youth ready for college or workforce and offer education based on those future goals (not everyone is destined for college, so we should offer more technical trades for students; for those students headed to college, work with those students to be successful). It should remain free and focused on education—we shouldn’t be worried about the bottom line. And we need to remove special interests—less testing, less “consulting fees” for a person’s vote on a board,” etc.

From Flower Mound parent: What is your perspective on “Global Citizenry?”

I hope I answered this well above—we should be advocating for our youth to be educated and focused on our needs as a country. We deserve to have the best education system in the world, like it once was, before special interests and bureaucracy came between teachers and students. With that in place, we create leaders that can interact in an ever-changing, diverse, and global world, holding onto our principles, but able to participate as an educated American. Education thrives when it is local.

From Katy ISD parent of former student: I read the Facebook page and am curious as to why he felt it necessary to tell us that he was openly gay? Is that relevant to the position?

It isn’t relevant to the position, but it is when running against Donna Bahorich and the Dan Patrick machine. In fact, her original platform 4 years ago related to only two subjects: abstinence-only education and decreasing the mention of LGBT people in the classroom. I wanted to be abundantly clear with voters about who I am, my experience, and what I stand for. Being gay is just one small part of me, and I did not want it to become the focus of this campaign. I want to be an advocate for all students and talk about the true issues at stake in this election and my background—not political attacks that have been thrown before by these folks.

From Katy ISD parent of 3 students that are moving to private and charters next year: I would be interested to know why he thinks we still need an SBOE? It seems to just be another layer of bureaucracy.

It is a layer of bureaucracy that I wish was apolitical and required rigorous requirements to be a member. I, however, think it is necessary. We are all familiar with the state-mandated “free public education.” Along with providing a free education comes the responsibility of protecting the entitlement. I will always advocate for democratically-elected representation, especially in regards to public education. This board, ideally, would be filled with educators and education policy experts that are chosen by people to help create basic minimum standards for the state and oversee issues like teacher certification, the Texas Permanent Fund, charter school applications, and instructional materials. Local boards, the community, and teachers should always be the voice of implementation, but these issues are huge components that deserve significant time to their adoption that a state board can offer (over the other enormous responsibilities local boards have).

From Katy ISD parent of 2 students: Will you immediately push to repeal and replace the current math TEKS?

I will advocate to look at ALL curriculum and ensure it is all developmentally appropriate—including the math TEKS.

From Katy ISD former teacher and school board member: Does he have children in the public school system? If his kids are in schools other than public school, why?

No children yet; I went to public school here in Texas and my children will go to public school. My partner teaches at a public school here in the District. I value our public education system! My opponent home-schooled and then sent her children to private school. We have to fight for public education and have representation that has a stake in the system.

In Dr. Carter’s words:

 Overall—I just want voters to know I am not running for this board to promote an agenda; I am running as a concerned citizen with actual education experience who cares about our kids. Education is not a Republican or Democrat issue—it affects all of us. I want the readers to know that I will always be a candidate (and hopefully elected official) that will always listen and involve families and teachers in the conversation. Education should be local. I have never promoted myself as the perfect candidate, but I am the best person for this job compared to my counterpart. We cannot continue down the current trend of education in this state. To win this race, I will need voters of all walks of life to support me—education matters, and I would be proud to represent District 6.


Facebook: Dr. Dakota Carter for Texas

Feel free to contact me or pose other questions!