Get started: Type your information into the form below to compare candidates in key contested races and create your own ballot.

State Board of Education, Dist. 13

Choose two candidates from below to compare.
  • Candidate picture

    Erika Beltran (D) Regional Director, Dallas-Fort Worth & San Antonio, Leadership for Educational Equity

  • Junart Sodoy (L)

Change Candidates

Social Media

Biographical Information

Length of residency in your district:

Occupation/main source of income:

Education (include all degrees):

Highlights of current civic involvement/accomplishment:

Highlights of past civic involvement/accomplishment:

Previous public offices sought or held:

How much funding have you raised for your campaign?

Who are your top three contributors?

Have you ever been arrested or involved in any criminal proceedings? If so, please explain:

Have you ever been involved in any civil lawsuits or declared personal or professional bankruptcy? If so, please explain:

What is an example of how you led a team or group toward achieving an important goal?

What educational leader do you most admire and why?

Why are you running for this office?

Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

The powers of this board long have been debated, including in the 2013 Legislature. Have lawmakers struck the right balance when it comes to giving this board authority over public schools?

How should the state determine whether schools are helping their students advance?

What legislation should lawmakers consider in their 2015 session to improve Texas schools?

What is your assessment of the Texas Education Agency?

In 2015, the board is slated to adopt new standards for career and technical courses. This will be an important discussion, given the emphasis the 2013 Legislature put on expanding vocational education. What would you like to see the board require for these courses?

In 2015, the board is slated to renew the state's standards for English I reading and writing. What kind of changes, if any, would you like the board to adopt?

Do you think Texas' educational standards are sufficient to keep the state out of the national Common Core standards?

What is your view of charter schools, including out-of-state charters that want to establish schools in Texas?

The board recently created a panel to study CSCOPE, a curriculum that a number of Texas educators created. The curriculum and lesson plans are linked to the state's standards, but some Texans believe it contains unpatriotic elements. What is your view of CSCOPE? And should the board be studying it?

This board once was noted for its fiery debates over issues like evolution. How do you assess the board performance today?

City/Town Dallas
Age 38
Campaign Phone Number (650) 269-8544
I was born and raised in District 13 and spent my entire K-12 career in public schools in the District. I grew up in Fort Worth in a neighborhood on the north side called Diamond Hill, where my family put down roots in the early 70’s. I moved away for college and for job opportunities, but always had the intention of coming back home. I have lived and worked in Dallas since October 2012 and have resided in District 13 for one year.
On June 16th of this year, I took on the role of Regional Director for Dallas - Fort Worth and San Antonio for an organization called Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE). LEE serves to empower Teach For America corps members and alumni to grow as leaders in their communities and help build the movement for educational equity.
LBJ School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin - Austin, Texas • Master of Public Affairs, 2006 • Professional Report: “Closing School Readiness Gaps: A Guide for Texas Policymakers”

Williams College - Williamstown, MA • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, 2001 • Ronald E. McNair Scholar – A program to encourage first-generation college students who have demonstrated strong academic potential to pursue graduate studies.
Volunteer, Organizing for Action (OFA): As a volunteer for OFA I have organized and participated in numerous phone banks and “flyering” events urging our members of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Advisory Board Member, Leadership ISD: Serve as an advisor for Leadership ISD’s innovative civic leadership development program that targets aspiring and proven business and community leaders and equips them for high-impact service in the public education sector.
Member, Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) Advisory Council: MSHS is a program designed to serve the early learning needs of migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Migrant and seasonal farmworkers do not have reliable access to childcare and parents often take their children to the fields, exposing them to harsh environmental conditions and pesticides. As a Member of the MSHS Advisory Council, I had the privilege of working with leaders from across the nation to advise the MSHS Collaboration Office in ensuring that migrant children had access to high-quality programs that helped meet their health, educational, and social needs.

Member, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Advisory Panel: LISC is a national organization “dedicated to helping community residents transform distressed neighborhoods into healthy and sustainable communities of choice and opportunity — good places to work, do business and raise children.” As a member of the Advisory Panel I advised LISC in developing early learning programs as part of community development projects nationwide.
None
I raised $47K for the primary election in March and an additional $83K for the primary runoff in May.
Texans for Education Reform Michael Bloomberg Leadership for Educational Equity - Texas
n/a
n/a
In March of 2013, I led a group of educators to Austin to learn about state-level education policy. Prior to arriving in Austin, I led our teachers through four monthly sessions on education policy, reading the latest research on measuring effective teaching, and learning more about the importance of the “teacher voice” in policymaking. In Austin, these teachers witnessed firsthand how education policy decisions are made – decisions that impact their students and profession on a day-to-day basis.

Our trip to Austin was transformative in helping educators discover their own voice and their ability to influence decisions that impact their students and the teaching profession. Through this experience, I helped empower teachers to become advocates for their students and for their schools. Each of us returned to Dallas with a commitment to do more – to continue to rally for the needs of students and to continue to be part of policy conversations in which educators rarely often asked to participate.

I’m very proud to say that, as a collective, these educators have become forceful voices for students in North Texas. Many of them have taken it upon themselves to inform other educators and to organize around important issues facing their local communities. I couldn’t be happier about what we accomplished in Austin, and I hope that the momentum we created in advocating for the needs of students continues to grow.
The education leader that I admire the most is my second grade teacher, Mrs. Elsa Guajardo. Mrs. Guajardo spent many years teaching at my alma mater, H.V. Helbing Elementary School on the north side of Fort Worth. I clearly remember being in her classroom learning how to count using paper cut-outs of money and being challenged with tough math questions. “Erika,” she would say, “bring me 37 cents, using only nickels, dimes, and pennies.” I would squirm in my seat, carefully consider the question and proudly bring her my handful of paper coins.

Mrs. Guarjardo is the education leader I admire most because she changed my life and worked to ensure that I was successful. As the young daughter of immigrants, I was living in poverty, in a household where English was not spoken and in a crime-ridden community. Based on these demographics, my chances of success were slim. Despite the many odds that were against me, Mrs. Guajardo saw something special in me and was a true champion for my education.

Mrs. Guajardo reached out to my family and urged my parents to enroll me in a Montessori magnet school, the same school her son attended, on the other side of town. Como Montessori was the beginning of a new life for me. There, I was challenged, pushed, and put on a track toward academic success. Mrs. Guajardo’s belief in me landed me in some of the best public schools in Fort Worth, and eventually in some of the best institutions of higher education in the nation.

I believe we need more teachers like Mrs. Guajardo in our communities. More teachers who are willing to go out of their way to help students and to help parents make the best decisions for their children. Almost three decades later, I am still inspired and incredibly grateful for Mrs. Guajardo and the impact she had on my life and my educational success.
I am running to represent District 13 on the State Board of Education (SBOE) because I am passionate about doing what’s best for kids. I was born and raised in District 13. In fact, every school I attended is a part of this district. Though my parents came to this country with very few resources and had very little formal schooling, they valued hard work, education, and dreamed of a better life for our family. I managed to be successful because of the values my parents instilled in me and because I had excellent teachers who cared about my success.

I am running for this office because I want every child and family in this district to have the same opportunity I had growing up. I want to ensure that no matter where a child lives, that s/he will have access to rigorous instruction, great teachers and leaders, and excellent schools. Having been a student and a teacher in Texas, I know that we have a long way to go to accomplish this vision and I’m fully committed to making a story like mine be the rule, rather than the exception.
Voters should choose me because I will put the needs of students first and foremost. As someone who overcame many challenges growing up in District 13, I am committed to ensuring that all children have the same opportunity I had to reach their full potential. I will base all of my decisions as a Board Member on the needs of the children and families of District 13 and will always make that my top priority.

As a former teacher who successfully taught in an under resourced public school in Texas and an education policy expert, I will bring the experience and perspective of a teacher to critical decisions around curriculum, instruction, and rigor. I understand what it’s like to be in a classroom working with students and understand how policy decisions impact the lives of children.

Finally, as someone who has worked with diverse constituencies, I will continue to work hard to build relationships with all Board Members, school district leaders, and community leaders to advance a broad based coalition for kids. I commit to being a catalyst for collaboration to create opportunities that will help Texas children thrive.
The SBOE has evolved in its role and responsibilities since its creation by the Texas Constitution in 1866. Clearly, it is only appropriate that as the demographics of the state changed, so did its education governance structure. Across the nation, state boards of education take on similar roles, that of overseeing curriculum standards, educator certification, and approving instructional materials. Overall, the responsibilities of the SBOE are to focus on the “big picture” needs of the state’s education system and to develop policies that are in the best interest of Texas children and families.

Based on my experience working in policy and politics at the local, state, and national level, I believe lawmakers have struck a good balance in giving this Board authority over public schools. I believe it’s important to have an entity, such as the SBOE, providing oversight and support for local school districts and the state legislature so as to ensure that we are doing our best as a state to meet the educational needs of our children. Though I recognize and understand that every local community has its own needs and unique context, I firmly believe that we must have a state entity that helps maintain the “checks and balances” of our governance systems and sets guidelines to guarantee that Texas has the best schools and most successful children in the nation.
I believe we need to do two things in order to determine whether schools are helping their students advance. First, I believe that we must continue to collect disaggregated data and evidence of student academic outcomes in order to ensure that schools are helping children achieve. When I was a teacher, I learned the value of tracking student data. That data helped me understand where I need to concentrate my efforts in order to help my students achieve. Just as I used to review my student’s outcomes as a teacher, I believe we need to do the same for schools. Data must inform our dialogue.

Second, I believe it’s incredibly important solicit the thoughts and opinions of educators, parents, business leaders, and policymakers to better evaluate the success of schools and to discuss how they would address some of the challenges our schools are facing. In my work as a Senior Policy Analyst for a large civil rights organization in Washington, D.C., I learned the value of coalition building and reaching out to key stakeholders to devise solutions to tough questions. I believe the work of improving our education system requires the best thinking of those most impacted by our schools.
The last legislative session left much to be desired for education advocates. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to travel to Austin numerous times during the 83rd legislative session and was often frustrated by multiple missed opportunities to improve Texas schools and student outcomes. Recent data collected from National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) show that Texas children are not keeping pace with their peers nationally on assessments of reading and math and that scores for Hispanic and African American students are declining, rather than improving. As the demographics of our state continue to change, this data should be a call to action for Texas policymakers to pass legislation that includes:

• Recruiting, Retaining, and Training Effective Educators and School Leaders: Research has shown that teacher quality is the most important in-school factor contributing to student achievement. Unfortunately, low-performing schools struggle to attract and retain the most effective teachers. Additionally, school leaders are often not trained to help support educators lead high-quality instruction that drive strong student outcomes. Texas legislators should focus on our most important human capital needs and make the recruitment, retention, and training of effective educators and school leaders a top priority in 2015.

• Expand Access to High-Quality Preschool Programs: Study after study has shown that investing in early learning has a significant return on investment, up to $7 per dollar invested. Closing the early learning gap is key to ensuring that children enter school ready to learn and ready for success. Though Texas has a targeted public preschool system for children from low-income families and English language learners (ELLs), many Texans do not have access to high-quality programs in their communities. Texas policymakers must do more expand proven early learning programs that help build children’s school readiness skills.

• Making College More Affordable: The costs of a college education are becoming increasingly unaffordable for most Texans. A recent study by the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin shows that since 1990, tuition and fees for four year public universities in Texas have increased 286 percent and costs for two-year institutions have increased by 89 percent – both increases are higher than the national average of 113 and 71 percent over the same period, respectively. At the same time as college is becoming less affordable, workforce demands show an increasing need for individuals with a secondary education for jobs in Texas. Policymakers must ensure that college is a viable option for all students and should devise policies that increase need-based grants and promote initiatives like matched-savings accounts for families in need.

• Adult Learning and English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs: In addition to focusing on K-12, it is also important to consider the learning needs of adults in our state. Statistics show that only about a quarter of all Texas adults have a bachelor’s degree and that many struggle to find meaningful employment due to a lack of English language proficiency. Texas policymakers should support programs that help adult learners access important workforce training programs, including GED programs, and programs that help adults learn English. Providing these important programs to adults will help ensure that we meet our growing workforce demands and will help more Texas families achieve economic stability.
Given the economic and staff-capacity constraints faced by most government agencies, I believe the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is doing the best it can to lead the implementation of state and federal policy for Texas public schools. Of course, TEA, as with most agencies, can do better. Most importantly, TEA should remain in constant contact with teachers, principals and district leaders in order to most effectively develop policies and practices that will promote successful student outcomes. I applaud the TEA for creating teacher advisory committees and would encourage more opportunities for educators to engage with the agency.
I believe that new standards for career and technical courses should be developed using high-quality state and industry standards and that we should receive input and guidance from educators, business and industry leaders. I believe it’s incredibly important to ensure that career and technical standards are rigorous, challenging academically, and closely aligned with workforce expectations and still prepare students for success in college so as not to close any options for students. I know from experience that students often pursue a career after high school, but often enroll in college-level courses to advance in their field. Career and technical courses should open as many doors for students to be successful after graduating from high school. Additionally, graduates of these programs should receive an industry-recognized credential or certificate that give them an edge as they enter the workforce.
Texas students must have a solid foundation in reading and writing upon graduation in order to be college and career ready. Upon doing a quick review of the English I TEKS, I believe the Board can further strengthen the English I standards by focusing on changes that help students 1) achieve independence in reading comprehension and writing, 2) build strong content knowledge, 3) comprehend as well as critique author’s assumptions and propositions, and 4) use technology and digital media to strengthen their skills and to collaborate with others.

In addition, the Board should require the development of supplemental standards that explicitly outline progress for English language learners (ELLs) aligned to English I. ELL students should be held to rigorous expectations, so as to ensure that they also receive rigorous instruction. Moreover, as a former bilingual teacher, I understand that teachers of ELL students need more access to instructional materials that help students meet these standards and be college and career ready.
I certainly think it’s important to do a careful crosswalk and analysis of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKs) to ensure that Texas standards are just as rigorous and that Texas children will graduate from our public schools ready to compete with children from all parts of our nation.

It saddens me that our state policymakers passed a bill banning Texas from adopting the Common Core last legislative session. While the vast majority of the nation’s students will be taught using the CCSS (46 states have adopted the CCSS), Texas students will be taught using another set of standards. Additionally, educators in Texas will not be able to utilize the same instructional materials or assessments that are being produced along with CCSS, leaving educators at a severe disadvantage.
I support all public schools that effectively serve students and communities, be they traditional district schools, charters, or magnet schools. I believe that we should be focused on whether schools are working to serve the needs of students and families and producing strong student outcomes that help children succeed.
I believe that CSCOPE can be a useful tool for school districts to align their instruction with our state standards. CSCOPE has been particularly helpful to small districts that have limited resources. As a former teacher, I believe that educators should have resources available to them that will support their efforts to help students reach their fullest potential. Giving educators additional tools and resources is incredibly important in helping them do their work most effectively.

While I support parents’ desire to view the lesson plans and support transparency in education, I believe that the debate over the content and lesson plans included in CSCOPE are political in nature and, much like the debates over the Common Core State Standards, are not focused on the needs of Texas children and families. CSCOPE is not a state-mandated curriculum and should therefore be a limited focus for the SBOE.
The Texas SBOE certainly earned its claim to fame during debates over the scientific and historical accuracy of textbooks that were to be adopted in 2009. Clearly, the SBOE still struggles with ideological debates (the recent CSCOPE controversy is a good example), however the future of the SBOE depends on Texan’s participation in our electoral system and it is up to voters to elect candidates who are knowledgeable about education, who are passionate about serving our communities and focused on giving our students the best shot at success.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.