Mike Sanders – Place 1
Candidate Mike Sanders is running against candidate and current President of the Board of Trustees, Trish Bode, and candidate David Doman.
Q: Why are you running for school board?
A: So there’s a number of reasons why I’m running. Some of the main reasons are, one, I’m really concerned about the direction that our schools have taken in the last few years. The quality of our education has really diminished, if you look at the grade scores and the comparison between schools, Leander ISD has gone way down on the list in Texas. We used to be at the top of the list in our grade scores and our students had excellent education. And now there’s a large focus in our school district on teaching emotional learning instead of teaching education, you know, instead of academics. I’m very concerned about that, and that shouldn’t happen.
I’m also running because of the taxes, because of property taxes, and every year our school board raises our property taxes unnecessarily. And Leander ISD, we have enough new constructions happening, it’s happening all over the district, that brings in so much new revenue, so much new revenue that we don’t need to raise property taxes on our residents. And so I’m voting no on Prop B, you see all the propaganda that’s being produced that says vote yes on Prop B. Well, I’m voting no on Prop B, no to that 35% increase in our taxes. So, there’s lots of other reasons, but that’s a short summary.
Q: What past experiences make you qualified to be a school board member?
A: Well, a lot of things. So I go to all the school board meetings, I have been for the past year, and I often watch, you know, in the school board meetings when different things are being discussed, and I think “Why aren’t they asking questions?” You know, why aren’t they…somebody, a presenter gives a presentation and the most obvious things come into my mind with what about this, what about that, and nobody asks questions. Like, for example, they say they did a survey, a random survey of voters, and I go a “A random survey of voters, how did you talk to those voters?” And it’s “Well, we talked to them by phone.” Ok, well, the voters list doesn’t contain telephone numbers, so it’s a random list of phone numbers that you obtained where? You know, there’s just obvious questions that our current trustees do not ask. And I, I’m an electronic engineer, I dig into things and I analyze things and I ask questions, and that’s one aspect that I’m going to add to our board that’s different from the board members we have.
Also, I bring a completely different perspective. Our current board members promote the pornography and obscenity that are in many books in our classrooms and our libraries, and I think that’s completely wrong. If you have to be 18, if the movie is rated R, which means that if you’re 17 and under you can’t even view it with your parents present, why would you put the same material in the hands of teenagers and middle schoolers in a school? It’s just wrong. And so those are some of the reasons that I’m qualified, because I’m going to make the changes that are going to help folks. I’ve been a pastor in several different churches, three different churches that I helped start up and – Spanish-speaking churches, hablo espanol, que entiendes idioma, and so, I want to represent the Hispanic population as well as the Anglo, the black.
One of the things I want to stop in our schools is this CRT, this critical race theory, where they’re teaching kids that you’re privileged if you have white skin and you’re oppressed if you have black or brown skin. That’s just nonsense. The color of your skin doesn’t determine whether you’re going to be successful or whether you’re not going to be successful in life, don’t let anybody tell you that. The color of your skin will not hold you back and the color of your skin will not make you go forward. It’s what you decide inside of yourself that’s going to give you success or failure in life.
Q: What is your stance on props A and B, and why?
A: Right, so I’m gonna vote no on both A and B. First of all, I’ll tell you a little about A. There’s a lot of disinformation that’s being put out by school leaders, by staff in our schools, and hopefully teenagers – by this time, you’ve recognized that not every adult says things that are true every time they speak. And so you don’t believe everything that you hear. Well, the staff of Leander ISD is putting out this propaganda saying, trying to convince everybody to vote yes on A and B. Well, when they do that, they say that we’re gonna have to pay recapture to the state of Texas, no matter whether A passes or not, no matter whether B passes or not. They’re saying we’re gonna have to pay recapture.
But not once, not one time has anybody on the staff of LISD ever said how much recapture we’re supposed to pay. Why? Because they don’t know. They’re telling you we have to pay recapture, but they have no idea how much recapture. Maybe a dollar? maybe $2? Maybe a hundred thousand? Maybe a hundred million? They have no idea, so they’re just talking, they’re blowing smoke out – they’re blowing smoke, ok, and so they haven’t established trust with the community because of the disinformation campaign, and as a result, I just don’t trust them. They haven’t provided any evidence that we’re going to have to pay recapture, no matter what. And, in fact, I did some research and I contacted the Texas Education Agency, the TEA, and in fact the TEA has notified our school district that we owe $0 in capture. We owe $0 in recapture. I don’t know if you guys know what recapture is, but recapture is where the level of revenue, per student, exceeds a maximum legal level, and when that happens then a school district has to pay money to the state of Texas and they call that recapture, or Robin Hood, or purchasing attendance credits, another way of putting it. But what it means is we’re paying property taxes to the state of Texas, and I think that’s just wrong. That’s Prop A.
Prop B is a 35% increase in taxes on the M&O side. Now I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the way funds are handled in the school district, but there’s an M&O and an I&S bucket, right? It’s kind of like a savings account and a checking account, or a first mortgage and a second mortgage on a house. They’re two accounts that are separate from each other, and the funds are not to be intermingled, and the I&S, that’s interest and sinking, that pays off bonds, or in other words, debt. And then the M&O account, that’s maintenance and operations, that pays all the salaries and the upkeep of the buildings and all that sort of things. Well, they want to raise the M&O tax by 35%. And they’re claiming – this is the ludicrous claim that they’re putting out – that it’s to give a 5% pay raise to our teachers.
So they’re gonna raise our taxes by 35% to give a 5% raise to the teachers? I don’t think so. I’m good at math, but you don’t have to be good at math to know that you don’t need a 35% increase in taxes to give a 5% pay raise to teachers. And they’re coming out with this, the staff of LISD, they’re coming out with this ludicrous claim, absolutely ludicrous, that 458 teachers are gonna lose their jobs if Prop B doesn’t pass. Well, to all the teachers out there, you know that you have a contract for the entire school year, and they’re not gonna break that contract, they cannot legally break your contract. It’s an absolute lie that’s being told, and if I’m elected to school board, you’re not gonna lose your job next year either, I guarantee you that.
Q: Should Prop B not pass, and the district need to cut over 32 million dollars from the budget next school year, what specifically would be the top three places you’d suggest for those cuts to come from?
A: So first of all, let’s take a look at the question that’s being asked. So the question being asked is if next year we need to cut $32 million in the budget. Well, first of all, have you seen any evidence that we would need to cut $32 million in the budget next year? Do you see any numbers that say we would have to cut $32 million in the budget next year? No, we haven’t seen any evidence of that. That’s a claim, another one of these crazy claims that’s being made, that we’re gonna have to cut $32 million in the budget next year. Well, maybe we’ll have to make budget cuts, maybe we won’t. But let me say this, last year, we didn’t have this 35% increase, and we paid all our teacher salaries. And we paid everything we had to pay for our schools. So suddenly this year, with very minimal increase in student population, they’re saying we need a 35% increase to pay the same things we paid last year? I don’t think so. But then there’s a 5% increase for teachers. That’s good, teachers deserve that. But it doesn’t take a 35% increase in taxes to pay a 5% increase in teachers. So this claim that we’re gonna have to do a $32 million reduction in expenses for next year, that claim I challenge. I challenge the validity of that claim.
Q: Regardless of the validity of the claim, what are three areas you would recommend those budget cuts to come from?
A: So first of all, absolutely no teaching positions should be lost. The teachers we have are the source of our income, right? The way that we – source of our revenue, excuse me, not income, source of our revenue – the way that we obtain revenue from the state of Texas is by student hour. We get paid by student hour. So every hour that a student is in class, the state of Texas pays our school district for that student being in that class for that hour, right? Well, if you suddenly get rid of 100 teachers, or 400 teachers, guess what that does to your student hours? They take a dive, a major dive, right? And so the idea that we’re gonna get rid of our revenue generators is just – anybody that would believe that is just not thinking well, ok, through the issues, so we’re not going to remove any teaching positions. Now if we do have to remove some positions, I’ll tell you one – there’s a number of things that are completely unnecessary in our school district.
First of all, we don’t need to have psychologists and psychiatrists in our schools. I don’t know if you guys know the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. A psychiatrist dispenses medicines, mind-altering drugs, ok? That should not happen in a public school setting. If a person needs a psychiatrist, that should be handled by their family, that shouldn’t be handled by public schools by any stretch of the imagination. And we don’t need psychologists all over all our schools, trying to teach people “maybe you’re a boy trapped in a girl’s body, maybe you’re a girl trapped in a boy’s body.” That’s just craziness, and we don’t need to be teaching children that, or young adults that. We don’t need to be teaching those kinds of things in our schools. So psychologists and psychiatrists need to be eliminated from our staff. I believe – maybe if we retain one or two psychologists in our entire district, but we don’t need these people, these folks all over all our schools, trying to convince children or young people of things that are simply not in their own heads until they get planted in their heads.
Another thing – we have a department that they call Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Well, diversity, equity and inclusion does not include large groups of people. Diversity, equity and inclusion does not include conservative voices because if conservative voices try to speak up during class, they’re shut down very quickly by most teachers. So diversity, equity and inclusion, it doesn’t include people who think that the Bible is the word of God, for example. You know, I believe that the world was created by God, that there was the first man, the first woman, they were called Adam and Eve and they were in the Garden of Eden. And they were created by God and told to multiply and that’s where humanity came from. I don’t believe that the Earth is millions of years old, that’s just nonsense. And when folks say “but that’s science, the science,” well, look at the basis of that science, you know? What’s the basis?
And when they try to say that the Earth is old, they take a rock and measure the carbon-14 in the rock or do some kind of dating, and the assumption is that when that rock was first formed, it was completely and totally radioactive, and after a half-life it lost half of its radioactivity and after another half-life – and so it’s been around for a hundred billion, hundred million years, whatever they wanna – whatever their latest numbers are, because now it’s got this much radiation left in it. Well, God, when he created Adam and Eve, he created a man, and he created a woman, fully grown, able to multiply and reproduce, right? And so they looked like they were already 20 years old, maybe, but they were, you know, that’s the way God created them, and when he created the Earth, he created it the same way. It didn’t start out as a fully radioactive mess, you know? So – but people like me who believe these things are ostracized, usually, by the DEI folks. Because when they talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, they’re not talking about us. They don’t want – in fact, if this even gets allowed to be aired, the fact that I’m talking about Adam and Eve and the Bible, if they even allow that to be aired in your school, I’ll be amazed. Because voices like mine are ostracized and cut out by the DEI folks. That whole entire department needs to be eliminated from our schools, and people need to stop telling young people or kids that they’re to judge each other based on the color of their skin.
Who cares about the color of your skin? It makes no difference in life whether you’re brown or black or white or some other color. It makes no difference. You are a child of god, you are created by God Almighty, and you have value because he says you have value, not because some white person or black person or brown person says you have value. You have value not because of the color of your skin, but because of the fact that you were created, “and we hold these truths to be self-evident” is what it says in our preamble to our Declaration of Independence. Self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator. By who? By their creator, with certain unalienable rights. That’s the foundation of our country, and that department needs to be eliminated.
There are other things we need to look at. There’s a lot of waste in elementary schools. I believe we should not have laptop computers in elementary schools. I believe that elementary school students should learn how to read and write, and the more that they read and write from books and with pencils, that’s how you learn to read and write. You don’t learn to read and write on a computer. They shouldn’t have computers in elementary schools, and they shouldn’t be taking all these invasive surveys where they’re asking these little kids, you know, “How do you feel today, do you feel like a woman or a man, a boy or a girl,” you know, “Are you trapped in somebody else’s body? What’s your home life like? What do your parents think about this?” All this crazy stuff that’s being filed away in some server somewhere that’s owned by a third party company. Basically, your personal data is being provided to a third party company and your school district is paying for it. That’s wrong. That’s wrong on so many levels. So there’s a lot of waste to be cut out of the budget, but none of that includes teachers. We are not gonna cut any teachers out of the budget.
Q: And taking a shift in question, I want to talk about how you feel about Dr. Gearing’s job as a superintendent and your thoughts on that.
A: Well, that’s an interesting question. What do I feel about Dr. Gearing’s job as a superintendent? So I don’t know if everyone is aware that Dr. Gearing came from Dripping Springs ISD and was basically forced out of that district for two things: for sexualizing children and for sinking the district into debt. And he came here to Leander ISD and what has been happening for the last two, three years since he’s been here – last three years since he’s been here? Sexualization of children and sinking us deeper into debt. The exact same that was done in Dripping Springs ISD, where he came from.
The sexualization of children needs to stop, and it will stop if I get elected to our school board. And the constantly raising our taxes and sinking us deeper and deeper into debt is gonna stop, too. We’re gonna start paying down our debt if I get elected to school board. So there are a number of policies that Dr. Gearing has implemented and helped to promote. For example, the pornography in the schools. If Dr. Gearing decided that he wanted the pornography out of the schools – *snap* – it’ll be out just like that. It’ll be gone. But he wants it here. So the question is why would any adult, why would any adult want to give pornography to someone else’s children? What motivates any adult to want to give pornography to minors? Why would you want to do that? That’s a question that everyone ought to be thinking about.
Q: So would you say you’re satisfied or not satisfied [with Dr. Gearing’s job as Superintendent]?
A: Well, based on what I just said, what do you think? I am not satisfied at all with what Dr. Gearing has been doing.
Q: One of the main questions we hear a lot in the community is why our district has ended up in this situation, like you mentioned with Dr. Gearing. That’s something we’ve seen in the past. How would you respond to that question?
A: Well, you know, last year, 600 teachers decided not to renew their contracts in Leander ISD. 600 – that’s what, is that a fifth, a fourth or fifth of our entire population of teachers? That is a huge number that decided not to renew their contracts, and when we started up the school year I think there were over a 100 teaching positions that still had not been filled. And so they brought in all these substitute teachers and the only qualification for the substitutes is that they have a high school diploma. They don’t even have to have a college degree, they don’t even have to be a credentialed teacher. So because of the policies that we have in place, we’ve lost all these high qualified, credentialed educators and they’ve been replaced with people who are not credentialed, who are not highly qualified.
We even brought in teachers from foreign countries who don’t even speak good English. I’ve been told by students that they can’t even understand what their teachers are saying to them. That’s not in this school, that was in Glenn High School that I heard that a number of the teachers don’t even speak good English. Well, that’s just, you know, that’s due to the policies that have been implemented here where teachers just don’t feel comfortable anymore that they have to call a boy a girl or have to call a girl a boy or they have to – they have to teach things that they don’t believe in, that they morally object to. And all of that needs to be cleaned up and removed from our schools so our teachers feel supported whether they – if they’re Christians, if they’re moral, if they’re Muslims or Hindus, whatever it is they are – but they have a moral compass that tells them “this is wrong,” we need to allow them the freedom to listen to their moral compass and not to be forced to do things that violate their conscience.
Q: So are you saying that is what the root of the financial issue is?
A: So that was in response to the question, I think the question was why so many teachers had left. What was the –
Q: So the question was why our district is – you know, a lot of people in the community are asking why the district is in this financial situation.
A: Oh, the financial situation, I must have misunderstood that last question then. So the financial situation, the reason that we are over $2.4 billion in debt is because our current board has overseen that – this debt, this continual increase in debt and they have not tried to pay down the debt in a way that is satisfactory. We need to pay that debt down, we’re paying over $70 million every year just in interest, in interest alone. In other words, $70 million that we wouldn’t even be paying if we didn’t have all that debt. That’s more money – that’s enough money to build a brand new elementary school every single year. To purchase the land and build a new elementary school every single year, that’s how much we’re paying in interest. Imagine you have a credit card, and imagine your interest on your credit card is $100 a month. Well, I don’t know how much you’d get for allowance, or how much you’d earn if you had a job, but $100 a month in interest on a credit card, that’s a lot of money. And if you didn’t have that credit card, you weren’t paying that $100 a month, you’d have all that money to spend on other things, right?
So basically, our school board has decided that we are all going to be indebted for this much, and they keep putting these bonds on the ballot to sink us deeper and deeper into debt. They tried to sink us three-quarters of a billion – of a billion dollars in debt – last year and it failed fortunately, but as soon as it failed they started talking in the school board meetings about how to get it to pass. “What do we do, do we put it on the May ballot, do we put it on the November ballot,” and the latest plan is they plan to put it on the next May ballot. So right now, they’re claiming that they’re reducing our tax rate but they have every intention of putting another bond issue on the ballot in May next year which will take the I&S rate and raise it right back up to where it was before they brought it down just to pass this 35% increase in M&O rate.
Anyway, that’s a lot of detail. What we need to do to get out of our situation is we need to pay down our debts, stop paying so much interest because that interest is eating us alive. And that debt is causing us to have – well, in fact, we got a rating of two out of 10 from the Texas Education Agency in the area of financial solvency. They said our financial solvency is rated two out of 10 because of the ratio of the debt we owe compared to the amount of assets we have. We have, I think the ratio is like 97% debt to asset ratio. We owe so much debt that we’re only about $52 million away from being insolvent, according to the definition of the word insolvent, which means you owe more than you have. In other words, let’s say you have a house that’s worth $500,000 and you owe $600,000. Well, technically you’re insolvent on the house, you’re underwater, you owe more than what the house is worth. Well, that’s where we are as a school district, we almost owe more money than our assets are worth, and when you come to that point – if we get another $50 million in debt, $52 million in debt, we will receive a zero out of 10 rating. A zero out of 10 rating in category number 11, financial integrity, from the Texas Education Agency.
Q: So we’re also wondering, do you have any of your own children who are or have been LISD students? I know you were talking about your son earlier.
A: Yes, yes, yes. So my daughter and son went to Rouse High School. So, we did homeschooling in our elementary school years. The first year that Rachel, my daughter, entered school was ninth grade at Rouse High School. The first year that my son Joshua entered public schools was in seventh grade at Leander Middle School. And when they entered public schools, they lost a whole year of their education because they were so far ahead of where the public schools were that they were just getting taught the same things that they had already learned previously. And so they basically lost a whole year of education when they went into public schools. And when they went into public schools, the thought was we want our kids to learn to socialize with a variety of different kinds of folks because we don’t want them to just be with people who are friends of ours, you know, all different kinds of folks. And that was the thought in bringing him into public education, even though they were getting a high quality education when we were doing the homeschooling.
Josh, my son, he did so well that he was on the journalism team just like you guys, in his 11th grade year, and he was president of the junior class in his 11th grade year, and because he was on the camera almost every day or quite often, he ended up being well-known at Rouse High School. And he was elected to be student body president in his senior year. So for you young freshmen out there, here’s a bit of advice: join the journalism team, if you’d like to someday be president of your class or president of the student body. Because the journalism team gets seen by folks and gives an opportunity to tell folks about upcoming news like what’s happening here, so that’s just a bit of advice for freshmen.
Q: So in the last two years, election integrity has become sort of a hot topic in politics. Do you personally believe that there are any issues with our election system locally or nationally?
A: Well, I think that anyone who believes that there are zero issues with our election system is probably a problem. We send teams of people into foreign countries to monitor their election integrity, just to ensure that they have fair, safe elections. Why do we do that for other countries and we think we don’t need to do that in our own country? Do we think that we are immune to that problem, if that problem exists all over the world? What makes us any different from the rest of the world? Of course there’s election integrity issues, that’s why when you go to vote there’s two election judges in each polling location there’s a Democrat judge and a Republican judge. Why? Well, because the Republican keeps the Democrat honest and the Democrat keeps the Republicans honest and there’s a balance there, of people there overseeing the election.
Same with the clerks, you know, they should have some Democrat clerks and some Republican clerks and the idea is they’re watching each other and trying to keep that polling location a neutral location where people can feel safe, where their ballot is going to be counted. And so yes, there’s election integrity issues in our country, and I believe it’s been a very severe issue in the 2020 election, it was a very severe issue. And because of it, a lot of people have started getting involved that weren’t getting involved, that were just being complacent before, but when they saw what happened in 2020, a lot of conservative voters started saying “we need to get involved in this process.”
Q: And this is our last question, but would you accept the outcome of the election if you lose?
A: Of course, what else could I do? What am I gonna do, if you lose you lose. That’s the way it goes. You win some, you lose some. You know, last year I ran for city council in Leander and I won the general election, but there were three candidates running for the spot I was running for, and they had a runoff election and in the runoff election, I lost by 105 votes. Out of – I think it was 4,000 votes, I lost by 105. And it was hard, you don’t want to lose, but if you lose, you lose. What are you going to do? I don’t want to lose here. There’s not going to be a runoff election here because that’s not the way the school board works. In the school board, if you have three people running for a position, it’s whoever gets the most votes. Nobody has to get more than 50% of the votes. So if I lose, I lose. I hope that doesn’t happen, but what are you going to do? That’s the way our democracy works.
Q: Did you have anything else you wanted to mention?
A: I just want to mention that if you would like more information, you can go to mikesandersforlisd.com. You can look at my website and get more information there. Thank you, and I ask for your vote. If you’re 18 years old, if you’re 18 and you’re registered to vote, please vote for me. I appreciate it.