As a parent, there are few things in life as important as my children’s education, a sentiment clearly shared by many of you. Education is, hand’s down, the number 1 priority for many people in the district that I’ve met. I also hear broad dissatisfaction with the current state of public education and a desire to do better, and we must. The trouble is that the issue is so complex, such a minefield of conflicting ideas and emotions, that’s it’s tough–particularly for one not steeped in education law or policy–to know where to start. Nevertheless, I hope a brief statement of principles and ideas here will help you better evaluate me as a candidate and understand how I would approach the issue if chosen to represent you at the legislature.
Our focus must be on providing the best possible education for Utah’s children–all of them–and that means far more, to my mind, than trying to make them all perform at a certain level on standardized tests. While that’s important on some level, education is about far more than being “good at tests.” It’s about learning to love learning, to catch those “sparks” where a kid moves from “I hate English!” or “I hate History” to developing a lifetime love and interest in those subjects. (I was that kid; unfortunately, I never made that transition when it came to math.)
That’s why I seriously question, for example, a current proposal to “put a computer tablet in the hands of each child” at significant tax payer expense (the most recent estimate is $434 million!) where we have little or no evidence to suggest that would actually improve learning. Certainly, there must be more pressing needs to address, or, if not, the money is best left in the pockets of ordinary citizens to spend as they see fit.
I believe in public education. I am a product of the public schools and all of my four children attend them. (My youngest is five.) Though parents bear primary responsibility for their children’s education and upbringing, I believe that providing a quality public education is a proper role and responsibility of government–a sentiment shared by many of our Founding Fathers and an obligation written into the Utah Constitution. I believe that responsibility includes doing what we can to improve the quality of education for all children: whether they are schooled at home, in a public or charter school, or in a private school.
I believe we need more local control and fewer top-down mandates. Increasingly, our best teachers lack the freedom to do anything other than “teach to the test,” which deprives teachers of the opportunity to apply their own creativity and teaching skills. Growing up, a handful of teachers influenced my life profoundly, something they could not have done, I suspect, if class time had been consumed by “teaching to the test.” Top down mandates also mean that distant bureaucrats or interest groups can wind up dictating what is taught–and how it is taught–in our local schools, contrary to our country’s long tradition of local control when it comes to education. Lastly, it stifles the kind of local innovation that we need to find out what works and works best in education.
I believe we need greater transparency in the way school funds are raised, spent, and administered.
Lastly, I believe we need to do everything we can to ensure that money already allocated to education makes it into the classroom where it can have the most direct benefits on children and their educational opportunities. Currently, only about 65 cents on each dollar makes it into the classroom. We can do better. We must do better. For the kids’ sake, and ours.
My Commitment: To roll up my sleeves and do everything I can to help improve educational opportunities for all children.