State Legislative Candidate Questionnaire
Utah Education Association Political Action Committee
2018 Election Cycle
1. Why are you running for the legislature and what priorities have you identified that you want to pursue as a member of the legislature?
The only reason for a government – any government – to exist is to protect and preserve our rights. My primary initiatives will be in criminal justice reform, fiscal responsibility, reducing or eliminating unnecessary regulation (particularly at DOPL), opening health care options (including medical cannabis) and ending asset forfeiture.
2. Please describe your previous public service.
I have spent my career in the private sector, not the public sector. My advocacy activities correspond with that. I currently serve as Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of Utah, with the core of my duties aimed at improving organization and providing candidate support.
3. What personal experiences have you had with neighborhood public schools and/or with charter schools? (Be as specific as possible.)
I attended public schools for 13 years, although that’s been more than few years ago. I have a number of friends and acquaintances who are teachers, and a young nephew who is now enrolled in a charter school. Additionally, as an activist I’ve paid attention to salaries in the school system, both for teachers and for administrators.
4. Serious attempts to limit the rights of teachers and other public employees have been occurring throughout the country and were proposed here in Utah, but defeated. What is your view on the rights for public employees regarding collective bargaining, payroll deduction of dues and other association issues?
I believe in an absolute right to voluntary association. If public sector employees wish to band together to advocate for their interests, that is absolutely their right – but forcing those who do not choose to participate to do so is every bit as unacceptable as not allowing anyone to do so.
5. Utah voters overwhelmingly rejected private school vouchers. What is your position on private school vouchers and voucher-like programs (tuition tax credits, backpack funding, education savings accounts, etc.)?
I never favor programs which consist exclusively of wealth redistribution; such programs are far too susceptible to cronyism and mismanagement. That said, it is very clear that the answer to every problem is competition. We need a robust variety of education options in order to assure the best education for every student. A student should not be stuck in an underperforming school because of boundaries on a map.
6. What do you see as the most pressing issues facing public education?
In the short term, the excessive required testing and the need to teach to test results. I know from conversations I have had of the frustration many teachers feel because of the narrowly defined curriculum which far too many students find completely uninvolving – which of course leads to many further classroom problems. Teaching should be challenging and rewarding. We need to stop making it unpleasant.
7. Substantive public education reform legislation was passed in 2012 as the result of broad collaboration between legislators and the education community. What would you do or how would you continue that positive trend of collaboration?
I am prepared to sit down with anyone who wishes to speak with me. I will gladly work to seek solutions. I expect I would challenge some to help me find more creative solutions than may be initially offered, because taxpaying families are strapped, and we need to find ways to use assets more effectively and not just always seek more. Every teacher knows a way the money spent in their classroom could have been better spent.
8. Do you support the concept of a single letter grade to measure schools? Why or why not?
No. I have always found that any “one size fits all” approach means it fits many but works horribly poorly for all the rest. Besides, we need more variety in our schools. Every teacher knows that every student is not the same, our schools shouldn’t be the same either. We need more STEM Magnet schools, and arts magnet schools, and fewer attempts to be “everything to everyone.” The single grade system punishes innovation.
9. Utah is currently one of the lowest funded public education systems in the United States. What ideas do you have related to this challenge?
Why is efficacy a challenge? While Utah typically ranks near the bottom in per pupil spending, it also ranks near the top in student achievement. The outcome we should want would be having the highest performing schools in the country at the LOWEST cost. We want results, not silly bragging rights about our profligacy.
10. What role does technology play in teaching and learning?
A vast one, I hope. I look at the educational material available online today and am envious – I wish even 1% of that had been available when I was in school. It’s clear to me that our schools need to adapt to the world we live in – particularly at middle and high school levels we need to rethink what creates the best experience for students. Perhaps guiding independent study is a more important teaching skill than lecturing.
11. The number of charter schools has grown significantly over the past few years, with many charter schools operated by for-profit charter management companies. What should be the role of the legislature in increasing public transparency of charter schools when they typically have non-elected governing boards and may be operated by private, for-profit management companies? What should be the role of the legislature in evaluating the impact of charter schools on state and school district budgets, as well as student academic success?
The role of the legislature in regulating charter schools is simple and limited – to insure their honesty and transparency. Their business structure is not relevant: the question is always, given the exact same funding per pupil as another school, do they produce better or poorer results? Our goal must always be superior education; it’s about the beverage, not whether it’s in a bottle or a can.
12. Utah suffers from a severe teacher shortage. What can be done to encourage our best and brightest to enter the teacher profession? How can we assure that every student has a qualified teacher in their classroom? What should be the role of the legislature on this issue?
Obviously teacher pay has lagged behind inflation – although I note that does not appear to be the case for administrator pay. But the bigger issue is that we need to get out of the way of classroom innovation. Teaching has become robotic and regimented, with too much time demanded by bureaucracy. This may be the single biggest impediment to recruiting great teachers – the overbearing restrictions make the job unappealing.
13. What role do you envision for the Utah Education Association and the teachers we represent as the state moves forward in advancing education?
I would love to see UEA be the voice of teachers. When something works in the classroom, spread the word. When something doesn’t work, tell the state and the local districts to stop spending money on dead end programs. Every teacher I have ever spoken with has an idea on how to make things better simply by allowing them to make more decisions in their own classroom. Be the engine of educational innovation that we need!