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Utah Politics - "Virtual Debate: Education"


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Utah Politics - "Virtual Debate: Education"

We previously announced our virtual debate, and we want to thank all respondants. Our first question to the candidates was:

Education has consistently been viewed as the top issue of this election. Several candidates have stated they view the current educational organization as administratively top-heavy. Some cite barriers to entry for educators as a significant problem, and some seem content to simply throw money at education in hopes it will perform better. A recent report stated tax credits and school choice are least among public concerns about education. In your mind, what are the top challenges to educational success in Utah, and what specific plans do you have to overcome them?

NOTE: If you are a participating candidate, and your response is not posted, I have not received it. Please forward your response to

Olene S. Walker (R)

The top four challenges I see are 1) accommodating the increased number of incoming of students, 2) Low per-pupil funding, 3) Teacher quality and training and 4) curriculum.

1. Accommodating the increased number if incoming of students

Utah faces a unique challenge. Approximately one-quarter of Utah�s population is in public school. In the past ten years, the number of students grew by 17,000. In the next decade, the number will rise again by an additional 145,000 students. This fall alone, 7,160 additional students enter our classrooms; it will be almost half of what we�ve seen in the past 10 years. We must be creative and utilize all possible resources to provide the foundation for true democracy to continue.

We must implement competency-based education. Students need less time in the seat and more time with hands-on training. At the education summits last year, I heard the voices of both educators and parents saying that we need to focus on the basic skills of our young students. This is why I have implemented the �Read With A Child� initiative.

We must next work on writing which is an area where our test scores are slipping, and then we must work on math. Education is the engine for economic development and we owe it to ourselves and our children to educate and prepare our future workforce.

2. Low per-pupil funding a concern

Utah spends the lowest amount per student in the country and now it is showing in test scores. We may never be number one in per pupil funding, but we can work together in the executive and legislative branches of government to hire and compensate more quality teachers, to provide competency-based education, and to bolster New Century High Schools and charter schools.

3. Teacher quality and training

Most Utah teachers consistently go beyond the call of duty. They contribute personal resources to ensure our children have a positive and rewarding educational experience. But we are losing quality teachers every year because they are not compensated for their efforts. Teachers have not had a state funded raise for two years. This past legislative session, I fought to give teachers a pay increase this past legislative session and it passed. If elected, I will continue to work for our education system, including teachers salaries.

Developing quality teachers, however, takes more than just increased pay. I believe we must do better as a state to foster teacher morale while at the same time improving accountability. We must stick to, reinforce, and measure our performance in the basics. We can also improve the coordination between school districts and teaching programs in our colleges and universities. Both levels of educators can provide additional training and hands-on experience to better qualify our teachers. We also need to provide ongoing training opportunities for all teachers, including those in rural communities.

4. Curriculum

We have taken pride in our high test scores. Unfortunately, we are beginning to see those test scores slip. Especially writing test scores. Skills like writing, reading and math are essential to lifelong success. We need to increase our focus on competency based-education, We also need to encourage parents to work with their children at home. The �Read With A Child� initiative encourages this. We can make considerable improvement in our children�s education if we spend just 20 minutes a day reading with them.

Marty Stephens (R)

A stronger public education system in Utah will require more of the following three things: accountability, parental involvement, and resources.


As they say, performance measured is performance improved. In order to increase accountability, we must develop a system by which individual student performance can be measured, tracked, and assessed. The resulting data will allow us to objectively identify those programs and methods bearing fruit and those that do not. More importantly, they will help us identify those students needing supplemental or individualized instruction.

Parental Involvement

The best predictor of student success is parental involvement. The key to increasing parental involvement is simple: literally increase their level of involvement.

As parents feel that they have more options � and thus control � over their child�s education, they invest more in it. I strongly support parental choice in both inside and outside the public school system.

Specifically, I feel the public school system should include more charter school options; while tuition tax credits should be extended to parents who choose private schools for their children.

I believe it is possible to craft a bill that will simultaneously allow choice and protect school districts with flat or declining enrollments, such that they will not lose money.


As we all know, Utah�s unique demographic profile ensures that our schools will never be among the highest per-pupil-funded nation. Yet, our schools clearly need more resources.

That said, I feel that simply allocating more money to education will not guarantee success. Instead, we need to better fund those inputs we know will significantly improve student performance. These include increased teachers salaries, early intervention and remediation for struggling students, and enhanced access to quality text books and supplies.

I am the only candidate for governor offering significant and clearly-identifiable options for increasing funding to education without increasing taxes. Our four point plan for funding education includes the following:

1. Dedicating all revenues saved through the Governor�s Commission on Waste and Efficiency (which will begin assessing state government functions and processes within 90 days of my election) to increasing funding to public education. We anticipate this will bring an additional $30-50 million for education the first year.
2. Aggressively working with other western states to implement the APPLE Initiative (details of which can be read at ), which has the capacity to bring hundreds of millions of new dollars to the state of Utah over the next 3-7 years.
3. Demanding �education first� budgeting. As the name implies, this practice demands that the needs of public education be met at the onset of the budget-making process, with all remaining budget priorities funded based upon the remaining balance.

By focusing on these three key areas, we can improve the quality of education for our children while simultaneously benefiting our hard-working educators and administrators.

Nolan E. Karras (R)

As Governor, I am determined to give our children the educational opportunities they need. I will do that through innovation, technology and long-term financial planning. I will consider every funding request in every other state agency in direct competition with education. I will not approve those requests if it means sacrificing our children�s futures with a mediocre education.

My approach goes beyond funding alone. I will work to get us out of the bricks and mortar mentality and focus on the fundamentals of classroom success. Before spending one dime we always need to ask ourselves, �Will this expense go to our classrooms to improve learning?� If we can�t answer yes, we shouldn�t spend the money. That will help us focus on our greatest problems, class size and skills learning.

I am adamant about local control. I will ask every school district to provide me with a list of every state and federal mandate they have been given. We will discuss what can be done to lift those mandates so local officials can get better use out of the funds they have. Next, I will ask them to come up with a plan for improving classroom learning now. The answer to that question will probably vary from district to district and will require the input of administrators, teachers, and parents.

The key word is innovation. We must learn to drive costs out of the system without compromising our ability to provide world-class educational experiences for our children. Concerned school board members, administrators, and teachers at the local level know best what works for their situation.

I�m concerned too many of our students are graduating from high school without the basic competencies they need in math, science and English. I recently heard of a very innovative plan to address this problem. In the Washington County School District, Superintendent Max Rose wants to test students for these competencies in the 11th grade, not the 12th. Then, if there are weaknesses, instead of taking elective courses seniors will be required to take remedial classes designed to bring them up to speed in these important core competencies.

I would like to see competency-based criteria that allow students to move faster through the system. Similar to college courses, if students can prove they know the material they can receive credit for the class.

While the state needs to mandate the core curriculum, I believe local school districts need to design their own plans of how best to manage and teach these subjects.

I also think we need to make it easier for qualified individuals who are transitioning from other careers to enter the teaching profession. Many business professionals, technical experts, and others who already have experience in related fields should be able to transfer their knowledge to the classroom. We should streamline the certification process.

Richard Mack (L)

The State of Utah's constitutional mandate for a "free" education system has spawned a politically powerful and dangerous government employee union. The result is an educational monopoly dedicated primarily to employing members of the political class and inculcating popular support for its agenda, rather than equipping students with the necessary critical-thinking skills to enjoy the blessings of liberty throughout their adult lives.

As governor, I will uphold my oath to maintain a government school system to serve the most needy and vulnerable children in Utah. But given the dire threat that the government school system poses to the future of everyone's individual liberties, I will work tirelessly to reduce the size of the government school system and transfer the responsibility of educating the children of Utah to independent schools and home schools as much as possible. The success of students who have attended private schools and have been home-schooled, tells me that separating school and state as much as possible is the most moral solution to our education problem.

I support the adoption of tuition tax credits to stimulate an educational renaissance of independent schools outside of the government-run school system.

I'm very concerned about low per-pupil funding, but not surprised because the typical outcomes of government-run services are shortages and rationing. In this case, the service is K-12 schooling and the victims of the mediocre service being provided are the young Utahns and their families who were promised something better.

To increase overall funding for K-12 schooling, I support a full-fledged tuition tax credit program that would greatly expand the number of independent schools in Utah and allow families, individuals, and organizations to devote more resources toward the scholarship of Utah children. Such an educational renaissance would not only improve the quality of education, but the increased number of independent schools — combined with tuition tax credits — would improve the ability of many more Utah families to send their children to independent schools.

To increase the supply of qualified teachers, I support turning the teacher certification process over to principals and school district superintendents—who have to work with their new hires. I will also champion both home schooling and independent schools, to allow parents and teachers to develop their own education solutions.

During the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan the Republican Party called for the end of the U.S. Department of Education to allow for more local control of schools. Now, under President George W. Bush and a Republican U.S. Congress, government schools have come under more national control than ever before. This year, the Utah Legislature will examine whether the alleged benefits of the No Child Left Behind Act are outweighed by the burden of its mandates.

As governor, I will work to expand the ability of all Utah schools to educate their students in the manner that they best see fit. With more local autonomy and competition, government schools will likely respond by improving their curriculum, performance, and outcomes.

Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R)

I support parental choice in schools. I believe we need to start with the Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship bill and provide educational opportunities for those children with special requirements. This provides us an opportunity to set the stage for broader school choice such as tuition tax credits done on a means tested basis.

Stone "Stoney" Teiko Fonua (C)

First of all thank you for inviting me to participate in this debate. I hold education as one of the highest priorities. After all the education that our young people and citizens recieve means a better future for all of us. I would like to see programs that not only educate the children but also to educate the parents , this would better help them in the learning process. I believe that the first place children learn is in the home, this by no means replaces the formal education that they will recieve in the school system either public or private.

I also feel that the basis for education is having qualified teachers, who have the abilities and the training to provide this type of education. The teachers should be compensated for thier abitilies through competative clicial ladder scales and benifit packages.

I feel that every child should recieve the attention that he or she deserves. To many children slip through the system each year . Every student should have placement testing done quarterly, in order to determine thier skill level. When it comes to the end of the year we would not have the problem with finding that part of the students have achieved the needed learning process while the others have slipped through the loop.

When we allow this to occur the learning process for the unfortunate few have now started in a down hill spiral, and very few of them are able to catch up. In the long run this means that the students that are left behind have less chance of achieveing any form of higher education. This form of testing needs to be started in gardes K through 12. I guess no child should be left behind.

Do to the increased numbers of non english speaking children, it brings up another educational down fall. I feel these children have the right to educational process the same as the english speaking students. However, we need to provide classes that not only teach these children english but the parents as well. When these children are at home they are still the only ones that have the ability to speak the english language. Which means that the parents don't have the ability to provide any form of help with thier education, they are not able to go to parent teacher conferences or even help them with thier homework. This leaves these student 1 or 2 steps behind.

It is also not fair for the teachers to be judged obn thier teaching abilities when they have a class that only part have english as the first language . Our educators are being evaluated on all of the thier students as a whole and not taking this special group in to consideration. Which means that they are not fairly getting the evaluations that they deserve.

Ken Larsen (PC)

First, my disclaimer. As a candidate in the Personal Choice Party, my views are my own and I accept full responsibility for them. The party makes no group decisions about specific issues and nobody speaks for the Personal Choice Party.

Rather than respond to the premise that education belongs to government, and that my job as Governor will be to manage education effectively and efficiently, let me, instead, address the premise.

The name of our party is the Personal Choice Party. When it comes to education, I think that means Parental Choice. I think parents should have as much choice, authority and responsibility as possible for the education of their children. The education of our children is far too important to trust to a one-size-fits-all government program run by government bureaucrats with virtually no accountability to the parents and no motive to compete with the school down the street. Our educational system is hopelessly lagging behind other businesses because the free-enterprize profit motive is absent. The sooner we transform Utah education into the hands of private educators, the better off we will all be, especially our children and their teachers.

Brigham Young, founder of Utah, stated emphatically that he would never allow a child of his to receive an education from anyone who did not share his beliefs and values. I believe, if he were alive today, he would do everythng he could to keep his children out of the government schools. The reason can be seen easily enough with the current public debates over the Pledge. What business is it of the government to decide whether or not my child will be encouraged each day to recite the Pledge? What business is it of the government to decide whether or not one belief system or another shall be presented? In a system of choice, parents would simply send their children to a school that preached, or at least tolerated, their beliefs, or non-beliefs.

The Pledge is just one glaring example. Dozens of other issues concerning personal beliefs force me to conclude that government cannot provide public education without violating the Founding principle of separation of church and state so clearly mandated in our National and State Constitutions. I realize our State Constitution mandates government education. But Article X in our State Constitution violates the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment. And, since the National Constitution is the supreme law of the land, the public education provision in our State Constitution should be repealed.

I will work to make the transition as peaceful and orderly as possible. I have many ideas regarding education for the poor and how to deal with other problems. I'm sure others have even better ideas that a private system would soon discover and implement.

Education is far too important to trust to the government.

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