By Michelle Guffey

Killeen Daily Herald

The Killeen Retired Teachers Association hosted a political forum for state representative candidates running in the Nov. 7 general election Monday at the former Marlboro Elementary School.

Educators packed the small cafeteria to welcome Republican Jimmie Don Aycock and Democrat Edward Lindsay, both of Killeen and running for state representative in District 54, and the incumbent for District 55, Rep. Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple, and her opponent, Democrat Bill Smith, also of Temple.

The forum came one day after three gubernatorial candidates, running against Gov. Rick Perry, blasted the governor's education policies during a gathering of school administrators in Houston, saying that those policies have failed Texas children and that teachers aren't getting paid enough.

Aycock warned the group at Monday's meeting that the state's Teacher Retirement System was in jeopardy, commenting that the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, sent a shockwave through the economy still felt years later.

"Texas' economy has now rebounded and we have a surplus," he said. "Now is the time to fix the retirement system in the state of Texas while we have the money."

"Now is the time we are seeing the possibility of surplus money that should be used for TRS care, Delisi said, "so that everyone in this room can sleep better knowing there is money for TRS care."

The money surplus is expected to come from the education reform package passed earlier this year by the state. Extra money is expected to be generated through House Bill 3, the reformed franchise tax, and through House Bill 4, the motor vehicle tax. Also included in that package is House Bill 1, which provided a $2,000 pay raise for teachers.

Aycock, a former Killeen ISD school board member, told the group that education made a difference in his life and promised that he will advocate education and retirement.

"You are important to us and I will not forget what you stand for," he said. "Without education, children do not move forward in life."

Smith, a long-time educator, entered the race firmly believing in education, saying that although this is his first time running for public office, he is a veteran of public service.

"We need to fight to make TRS better," he said, proposing that the legislature needs to put more money in to better fund TRS healthcare.

Lindsay, also a retired educator, told the gathering that 40 million Americans lack healthcare insurance and 40 percent of Texans cannot afford health insurance.

"I have proposed a comprehensive voluntary health insurance plan," he said. "I want to make the TRS system so strong you won't have to worry."

Delisi stated that according to the state constitution, the state makes a six percent contribution to TRS that cannot be reduced.

Smith addressed the issue of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, the state's main standardized test.

The Temple resident described seeing elementary school age children who are stressed out and medically sick because they are worrying about passing tests.

"TAKS are making our children think like robots," he said.

Contact Michelle Guffey at mguffey@kdh

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