Recently I was asked by UAPCS to fill out a questionnaire which will be published on their site. I have also posted my response here on my website.
- In your opinion, what are the two most important functions performed by the State Board of Education? First: Parents are the primary educators of their children and the State School Board exists to represent them. Second: The State School Board should always stand for and defend true local control.
- How does your experience qualify you to represent the residents in your district on the State Board of Education? I have been defending the family and parental rights at the United Nations and on the State and Local levels for the past three years. I’m not an expert in business and I’m not an expert in Charter schools, but I am an expert in defending the family and I believe that is what Utah needs now, more than ever.
As you know, the State Board of Education manages more than $4 billion per year in public education funds. Recently, it has come to light that the board, and its staff, have neglected critical finance and accounting matters. These miscalculations will likely take years to fix.
- First, what measures would you propose the State Board adopt, in order to prevent similar future problems? The real problem is that there is a lot of money to be managed by a few, part time State Board members. The answer is to put the money in the hands of the local school districts and allow them the option to contract with the State Office of Education for services rendered.
- And second, what makes you uniquely qualified to assist in the correction of these errors? I am convinced that we need to hold firm to the guiding principle that the smallest or local level of government that can solve a problem should do so.
- The State Board of Education is unique in that its members are elected, and it has rulemaking authority. How would you approach the sometimes tedious process of writing, implementing, and enforcing education rules, all of which have the force of law?
When we implement policies and rules, we have to remember the ultimate law which is that the family is the fundamental unit of society…. As members of the State School Board implement policies and work with law makers we need to be the first to represent and protect the autonomy of the family. A good example of this is when dealing with attendance issues. A lot of well-meaning people would rather represent special interest groups like Attendance works rather than the families of Utah. The State Board of Education should never implement rules and policies that come between parents and their children. It’s up to us as elected representatives to be the voice for the parents.
- Who do you believe should be the primary driver of education policy – the State Board of Education, the Legislature, or the Utah State Office of Education? The parents are the drivers of education policy and the State Board of Education are elected specifically to represent the parents.
Why? Let’s look at each of these. The State Board and Legislature are both elected offices and when dealing with educational issues both should be representing the parents. The Utah State Office of Education is not an elected body and therefore does not have to come back for reelection and face the parents every 2 to 4 years. For this reason the Utah State Office of Education should not have any rule making abilities, their role should be strictly reserved to assisting local school districts who ask for their help.
- Charter schools and school districts have historically disagreed on a number of different issues. Those disagreements often manifest themselves at the State Board level. How would you manage disagreements between charter schools and school districts? The charter schools are succeeding because they work directly with the parents who choose their schools. Their student body is not mandated by where they live. I admire charter schools in that they work with parents in doing what is best for the child. These disagreements between the State Board and Charter schools are a perfect example of how State and Federal controlled money drives policy not innovation. Charter schools are using innovation to bring more school choice to families in Utah and I will work hard to maintain that Charter schools keep their autonomy to do what is best for their school and the families they serve.
- Over the years the State Board’s relationship with the Legislature has waxed and waned. How do you envision the Legislature and the State Board working together? This single issue is one of the most detrimental things to the prosperity of our children. We have too many voices affecting the education of a single student. How can this be possibly result in a productive education? I hope to foster a relationship with the parents so that parents can work with the members of the Utah State Board to develop a working relationship with the legislature in making laws that best represent the parents.
- And what will you do specifically, to foster that relationship? I will work with the parents to develop a relationship with the legislature. Regular newsletters would be a powerful help for parents who want to know what is happening on the hill, but don’t have time to research. This will also add a measure of transparency for the board. Many parents want to be involved, but find it difficult, especially when our district is so far from Capitol Hill.
- Many students are working out of textbooks older than they are. How will you work to modernize public education, and ensure Utah students are prepared to succeed in an increasingly technology-driven economy? This is based off an assumptions that old textbooks are of no worth and the budget in the state of Utah can keep up with the constant changes in technology. This is where local control of curriculum, budget decisions and school choice comes in. If schools have the freedom to choose what works best for their students then whatever they choose will be most effective.
- In your opinion, what is the State Board’s role in shaping standards and assessment? No one running for this office knows every single child in our district personally. One size fits all could never fix any educational problem. It is then up to us to have faith in local schools and charters to know the children they teach and to adjust the curriculum as necessary. I hold as a firm principle that the smallest or lowest level of government that can solve a problem should do so: First, the family, then the community, then the city, then the county, and then the state.
- How do you plan to address the statewide teacher shortage, and what should the State Board do to help school districts and charter schools attract competent and effective teachers? Utah has some of the most amazing teachers in the world. Most have been trained in Utah schools and by Utah families with ethics of hard work, honesty and a love for the children they teach. It’s arrogance to assume that these fine teachers need to be told what to do and say in every situation. Micromanaging has never worked in any organization. If we want to help Utah children truly succeed let’s empower teachers to do what they do best and encourage them to come to the State school Board with what they need instead of the other way around.