By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
Coryell County residents voting in the primary runoff elections will have another chance to head to the polls before election day to choose a Republican candidate for state representative.
Texas House District 59 incumbent Sid Miller, of Stephenville, is being challenged by Dr. J.D. Sheffield, the medical director at Coryell Medical Clinic, of Gatesville.
Both candidates this week talked about the upcoming Texas budget and the role of education in the state.
"I have a specific plan; that is why I signed Gov. (Rick) Perry's government tax compact," said Miller, who added he does not advocate using "smoke and mirrors" through accounting measures to balance the budget.
He also called for a limit on spending and no new tax hikes.
"We just don't a have a lot of money to throw around so most likely no new programs," said Miller. "Texas runs a pretty lean government, but there are some areas where we can make some cuts and limit spending."
Sheffield, who refused to sign Perry's compact, said the state constitution already declares that Texas has to have a balanced budget, so the emphasis should be there and not the compact.
"After that, I think the next priority is meeting the needs for the people," Sheffield said. "The first one for me is going to be public education."
Sheffield said he was from a very small school system in West Texas and believes that people in rural communities deserve the same "shot at a better education" as others.
Educating students now means educating and improving the future, he said.
"The next generation is what we are going to depend on to make this country stronger and better," said Sheffield. "They are going to be the ones paying future taxes. Our country is always improving because each generation wants the next to have a better life and has made sacrifices so that could happen."
Miller said the state did not cut funding during its last legislative session, but the number of students increased, making it harder to fund the public education system and causing the amount of money per student to decrease.
Miller said he helped offset that decrease in money per student by trying to put more children into private schools and keeping in tax dollars in the public education system.
Continuing to fund education service centers, which smaller school districts depend upon to meet the needs of their population, is a priority for Miller, he said.
Public school testing
Sheffield and Miller agreed that testing has become a big issue for public schools and both called to reduce the amount of testing done throughout the year.
"Earlier this summer, I wrote a letter to the Texas Education (Agency) administrators asking them to hold off on the STAAR testing...," said Miller. "Teachers are spending way too much time teaching the test. We have to have an accountability system, but this is not it."
Sheffield said that while campaigning, he has learned from area teachers and administrators that there is too much emphasis on testing and that students are stressing themselves into sickness.
Sheffield said he wants to put more control back into the local school districts' hands and take some of the regulation powers out of Austin.
Residents can cast their ballots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today or 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. The county has opened two polling locations for the runoff elections — one in Copperas Cove and one in Gatesville.
The winner of Tuesday's runoff election will face Democratic candidate Bill Norris, of Dublin in November. Norris is a local educator.
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7474. Follow him on Twitter at KDHCoveEditor.