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Brandi Burkman's beliefs about students with different learning abilities are revealing & dangerous

All students deserve high-quality education opportunities. Students requiring special education services and supports are equally entitled to access that education. We need leaders who recognize, respect, and will advocate for those in our community with disabilities. Early intervention services and supports for those 18+ with disabilities are vital, and I stand strongly for access to education for all students, including those with disabilities and special needs.

Unfortunately, my opponent, Brandi Burkman, apparently believes the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is, or should be, optional.

In a recent candidate forum hosted by the Leander ISD Council of PTAs, the question posed by the student moderators on special education services was important, and Brandi’s answer demonstrated both her ignorance of federal requirements of IDEA and her irresponsible platform. Her response revealed she doesn’t know enough to serve in any elected leadership position, and that she can only pivot to partisan talking points provided to her by political action committees that don’t have our community’s best interests at heart.

LISD STUDENT MODERATOR: "This question is for Ms. Burkman. What are your ideas about making sure that students with special needs have an opportunity to equally participate in after school activities, advanced classes, and college courses?"

BRANDI BURKMAN: “So I guess I feel like I need to clarify, do they not have these opportunities right now? Um, I believe that this goes back to, um, our focus on DEI, and I want to, um, go back to how all of this first started. Um, whenever the district invited, um, Bradley Carpenter in to conduct a study, um, which I, I wanna use the term 'study' loosely because there were a total of 423 participants and only 73 people responded. And

then this study was, um, shared across news networks and used to show that the district was, um, not diverse, that the district was racist. And, um, when you have the, the third response in this study saying that LISD is endorsing a progressive agenda, this is just not right for a population, a district population of over 40,000 students. We do not have a diversity problem. And I do not believe that special needs children do not have access to all of the programs.”

While Brandi’s answer to this particular question was bad enough, the student moderator later asked a question that further revealed how dangerous Brandi would be to our special education and early childhood communities.

STUDENT MODERATOR: "As LISD prepares to enter recapture in 2023, how will you balance continuation of programs and facility maintenance with financial responsibility?"

BRANDI BURKMAN: “So I am personally against prop B. I have, um, looked at five years worth of salary data. And we are not putting money into our classrooms. We're not putting money into our teachers. Um, just focusing on middle schools. Uh, for the teachers, the, the principal, the, uh, counselor, the middle schools have actually seen a 1.5% decline in salary in the past five years. Um, where have we seen increases? Uh, K

-12 curriculum has seen a 21% increase. Pathways and innovation has seen a 64% increase. It went from a department of $1.4 million in 2018 to $3.9 million. Now there's also a brand new department called, uh, federal and state programs worth $1.5 million. And this has teachers that do home visits for babies to 4-year-olds. This has nothing to do with K-12 education. How are we failing our kids? We need to focus on education. Our educational system needs to focus on education, not social justice. We need to get back to SBOE-approved curriculum. 80% of Texas schools do not provide on level instruction. LISD is not different from this. Every year, LISD certifies that they meet 100% of the TEKS. If this was the case, we would not see the STAAR scores that we do.”

Beyond Brandi’s response being muddled and messy, she attacked LISD for carrying out the federal requirement of Child Find to identify every individual in need of special education services for birth-to-21. She complained about the district providing vital early intervention services with staff visiting “babies to 4-year-olds,” disregarding these required federal and state services as a financial waste. The fact is that 20% of our LISD students require an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), 504 Plan, or intervention services.

Brandi and I could not be further apart in this regard. Brandi believes the individuals in our special education community and the supports we provide them as a district are just numbers to be slashed from our ledger

s. I believe her position is unconscionable and immoral. I value our special needs community and commit to ensuring their access to education programs and supports across our district — not just because it is required of us, but because it is a moral obligation we must embrace in public education if we truly are intent on meeting the needs of all students. And I am.

Committing to federal and state requirements should be a minimum requirement for this job, and Brandi doesn’t meet that threshold.

I believe in equitable education opportunities for all students. Full stop.

Vote like your children’s future depends on it … because it does.

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