Gates and Markowitz square off again for House District 28

In January, Republican Gary Gates defeated Democrat Eliz Markowitz in a special election for the

In January, Republican Gary Gates defeated Democrat Eliz Markowitz in a special election for the position of state representative for House District 28. The vacancy was left by Rep. John Zerwas midterm, which opened the position again for this November. The two candidates are now running against each other for the same seat nine months later.

Both candidates participated in a question and answer series on their respective opinions on issues facing the district.

Tell us a little about yourself. What made you decide to run for House District 28?

Gates: This community has given me so much; I founded my business here and raised my family here; I want to do what I can to give back. Shortly after I was elected, COVID-19 began to devastate Texas, and Fort Bend County was on the front lines. We had the first case in the state. As businesses shut down and seniors were told to stay in, I went to work contacting residents to connect them with the information and resources they needed. We reached out to over 30,000 people and distributed care packets to over 15,000 residents here in Fort Bend

Together, we are weathering the storm, but COVID-19 will not be the last challenge we face. I want to help our community be prepared for what lies ahead and give our families and the next generation every chance to succeed.

Markowitz: I’m a Fort Bend County native with an educational background in computer science, business, healthcare, and education and a professional background in all of the aforementioned fields. I believe that my diverse educational and professional background provides me with a unique perspective on the issues that are most concerning to the constituents of HD 28 and Fort Bend County. I previously ran for the Texas State Board of Education because I wanted to work to improve Texas public schools. While running, I heard about all the challenges that face Texans beyond education, such as healthcare, economic development, criminal justice reform, disaster management and school safety. I also learned that Texans want an honest representative that will conduct herself with integrity and work to improve the lives of all Texans—not just a select few.

I am running because I believe that this district deserves a representative who puts the well-being of people over personal power or prestige and treats every individual with respect and dignity. I am ready to put forth whatever it takes to win this election and ensure that we elect individuals with honesty and integrity who are willing to work for a more equitable Texas.

You’ve both mentioned that education reform is among your top priorities for the district. What are some of the things you would work to change, and what is your plan for enacting those changes?

Markowitz: The pivotal role of our public education system has come to the forefront over the past year, and we must revamp the way we fund and operate our public schools if we wish to see future economic success. For too long, we have underfunded our schools, underpaid our teachers and wasted money on metrics like standardized testing. In addition to the countless hours of lost learning time, Texas pays over $90 million annually to administer STAAR tests and hundreds of millions on test development. Meanwhile, the quality of K-12 education has sharply declined as teachers teach to the test in order to ensure that students master the current curriculum standards. Unfortunately, the current standards do not allow for student mastery, in-depth understanding, or experiential learning. The emphasis on rote memorization and lack of instruction time spent developing critical thinking skills leaves students unprepared for either college or a career. Furthermore, school funding and, often, teacher evaluations are also partially based on STAAR results. To link school funding to the results of a one-shot high-stakes standardized test, which have been shown to be unreliable and invalid metrics of student achievement, is inequitable in a state where districts themselves are not standardized.

Gates: The Texas Constitution guarantees a quality education to all Texans, which means we must take an all of the above approach to education and ensure our students are prepared for what comes next. Our high schools need to increase workforce training so that when students graduate, they can thrive in college or in the workforce.

Texas needs to continue to increase funding for our schools at the state level to reduce the burden on homeowners and give our school districts the budget certainty they need to plan for the future. We need to ensure that additional funding is going to the classroom where it is needed most to support our teachers and give them the resources they need to prepare our next generation.

Property taxes are a major consideration for residents in the district. What are your views on taxes?

Gates: Fighting skyrocketing property taxes and utility fees will be a top priority next session. We must address the appraisal process and put checks in place so that sky-high taxes do not prevent young families from achieving their dream of homeownership. I am committed to appraisal reform and ensuring the state pays its fair share for our schools so we can reduce property taxes for hardworking Texas families.

Markowitz: In 2011, the administration pulled $5.4 billion from the public education budget, reducing the amount of money the state put towards public education from 50% to 38%, placing the difference on the backs of taxpayers. We must immediately ensure the state pays its fair share of 50 percent and remove the excess property tax burden placed on taxpayers.

Alternatively, Texas remains one of four states in the nation that does not have a corporate income tax, allowing the tax burden to fall on the shoulders of small businesses rather than large corporations. Should we institute a corporate income tax, we would be able to accrue revenue from such corporations, ensure that we account for budget shortfalls, and allow for a continual stream of revenue for the state to utilize in other sectors.

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