I am sending this survey to you on behalf of Utah County Republican Party Chairman Casey Voeks and the UCRP Steering Committee. Signed Kristen Chevrier. Education Officer, Utah County Republican Party
Candidate Survey Questions
- All candidates say they are for local control. What do you mean by “local control”? Please give an example of what local control looks like and how it interacts with the state and federal government?
First, let me say what local control is not. It is not the local School Community Council making decisions on policy and budget, school by school, whim by whim, with no accountability to the taxpayer for how taxpayer funds are used. True local control would be the nearest elected representative of the people, the school board, with oversight and accountability, directing policy and budget. School Boards should step up by resisting inappropriate efforts to direct our schools for particular agendas.
Local control would be decisions being made at by those nearest to the issues, whether it be classroom, school, district or state.
Would there be a role for the state? Absolutely. Utah Constitution Article X: The Legislature shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of the state’s education systems. Is there a role for the Federal government? Not jot nor tittle: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
- Describe what education means to you.
Education is providing the means for the student to discover truth. Truth and light should be the goal for every learner, and for every teacher who interacts with the learner.
- Utah allows charter, private, and home schools considerable freedom to choose their curriculum. Do you believe the principals in traditional public schools should have the same flexibility, so they could experiment with things like teaching traditional math in Chinese? Why or why not?
Once upon a time there was actually a federal program that allowed such flexibility: Goals 2000 (1994) I was allowed to teach 9th grade geography and world history to the same students I had in my English classes. It was paradise! With The Diary of Ann Frank we studied WWII in Europe; with Shakespeare we studied the Renaissance; with poetry we studied the East, including world religions. When we were suddenly in Desert Storm, I smiled knowing there were a hundred students in Orem who knew the difference between a Shiite and a Sunni. But, all good things must come to an end, I suppose. Even though I had scored 94 percentile on the National Teachers of Social Studies Exam, had even taught social studies in both Texas and California, the USOE demanded I take course work toward earning a Utah credential. With a masters plus a zillion hours, I declined, and that was that. Obviously I find value in principals being able to experiment with what works for that school, that faculty, that student body. Our principals are being trained to be education leaders in their schools, not just managers, so let them lead.
- The Utah State Board of Education resolution 2014-01 claims Utah has local control over Utah Core Standards, even though Utah does not hold the copyright. It also claims that the teacher determines the curriculum, even though the procedure for teaching the integrated math program is mandated. Do we or do we not have local control over curriculum?
Utah has control of Utah Core Standards, which is basically every subject except math and language arts (so far). Those standards have morphed and transitioned with every educational twist and turn—as a teacher I had a file of standards I had been handed to teach over the years since the USOE simply decided to start issuing state standards in the 1980’s.
Utah does not have control of the math and language arts standards created by the Common Core program. We may add 15%, so we flexed our pitiful muscle and added cursive (culturally correct: how else can our children do family history?) But we have signed away our right to subtract a single line.
It is true teachers have control of the curriculum, that is the methods and materials used to meet the standards. But the simple fact is teachers teach to the test–of course we do, that’s our job, So the assessment tool actually controls the entire program, and teachers will use what works to succeed with the tests.
BUDGETING AND COSTS
- What is your position on issuing bonds for the school district? In what cases, if any, would it be appropriate?
Should we be debt free? Absolutely. But I have a mortgage on my house, and the same principle applies to building a school. As a representative of the fastest growing corner of the county, let alone the state, I have a great interest in financing new schools. There is no doubt Eagle Mountain must have a high school, as Westlake in Saratoga Springs will be well past 3,000 students before we can finance another school, and that large capital expense would need bonding.
Alpine does an amazing job with their finances. The bonds are borrowed a chunk at a time, as earlier bonds are retired, which keeps the tax rate relatively flat. The financial arm of the district shops the bond prices astutely, and the tax payer is well-represented and well-protected.
Some of my Tea-Party friends, the “no taxes, period, ever,” disagree with me. When I ask what we would do without the means to build new schools, the answer is, “We’ll figure it out.” Sorry, a quarter of a century in the classroom makes me adamant about experimenting on a whole generation of children—we bond every five years; five years is almost the whole elementary school education, or eighth grade to graduation. I feel very protective of our children
- Should all ASD employees pay their own association fees like the teachers do? Why or why not?
Of course they should. I have been the first ASD Board member to state that in a school board meeting, but the response was a litany of how much the school board association does for us. What? We don’t work for the district, why should they pay our fees? And the district administration? It’s a crime for them not to pay their own way. The superintendent belongs to half a dozen associations—and he earns enough to pay his own freight.
- Should the school board have an independent panel of business owners, CPA’s, and other community members review the budget and make recommendations before it goes to the board for a vote? Why or why not?
The school board has been elected to represent the people. There are several members with business and financial backgrounds, several with educational experience, and several lay persons. Inserting another level of bureaucracy, a committee for heavens’ sake, each member with their own interpretation and philosophy, would not seem to be a benefit. The people have chosen their representatives.
- Do you believe suspending or reducing the property tax levy for Community Redevelopment projects is the proper role of a school district? Why or why not?
Government should not be picking winners and losers. Period. Micro-managing the economy is not the business of a school district.
That being said, tax incentives have been infused into the politics of economic development, and it is a reality. Alpine has a criterion for when to participate in RDA’s (CDA’s, whatever the initials). It’s actually pretty good, with six points that would allow a tax incentive for a very narrow project, such as creating a plant that would not exist without a competitive boost, resulting in economic growth and tax revenue that would otherwise not exist and that would be an asset to the schools. But politics get mixed with the criterion, and good old boys will be good old boys, and it is a slippery slope. There must be due diligence, from a body accountable to the public—hey, how about the school board?
- Whose interest should the school board represent first: the students, the teachers, the parents, or the district? Why?
We like to say, “What’s best for kids.” But it’s a much bigger picture, and a much bigger balancing act. It would be best to start high school at ten, first period is almost a throw-away of sleepy, tardy, bleary-eyed students. But we have to consider the buses, athletics, after-school jobs, and the costs to the taxpayer.
I balance my decisions on school needs (students and teachers) with the needs of the tax-payer (which would include parents).
- Alpine School District is a $500M, 7000 employee enterprise–a big business by every measure. Should membership on the “Board of Directors” require some minimum business or executive experience? Why or why not?
The voters elect the “Board of Directors” from those who register to run, and voters should vet the candidates and choose those they feel represent them best. Micro-managing elections sounds like progressive philosophy, where the government can solve every problem, usually by committee.
- Do you believe parents should have able to opt their children out of the SAGE tests or should taking SAGE tests be a condition of enrollment?
Opt out should be a simple and direct choice. With all the teacher development hours that have gone and are going into training our teachers for Common Core, the opt-out decision should be as clear to the classroom teacher as it is to the administrator. The subtle (or not so subtle) bullying going on should be stamped out.
- What are some of the principles that will guide you in making decisions as a school board member?
My mission statement:
I represent the citizens of District 1, working with professionalism and integrity alongside my fellow board members and the administration of ASD to provide principle-based policy as a basis for quality education for every child in Alpine School District.
My personal code of conduct is to act with professionalism and integrity to:
- represent my principles, which are conservative, family-centered, and Constitution-based
- create an information-rich climate (the word “transparency” has lost its meaning)
- advocate for educational excellence and resist national agendas
- champion responsibility resting ultimately with the parent as steward of the child’s education, whether in district schools, charter schools, private schools, or the home
- work for local control, bringing decisions to those nearest the issues
- support fiscal responsibility