NOTE: Rep. Morley e-mailed these to me on April 1. The delay in posting is entirely mine.
Thanks, Brooke. Here are my responses.
What do you think is working in Utah public schools? What isn't?
Overall, I think Utah public schools do a great job meeting the needs of their students, particularly in comparison to our neighboring states. Utah high schools graduate over 90% of their students whereas Nevada is less than 50%.
The responsibility for educating children belongs to parents. In order to meet the needs of their children, parents need choices. Most children do very well in traditional district schools. Some, though, do better in another setting and parents are in the best position to make that decision.
Districts can get so large that it is hard to be responsive to the needs of all students. It is difficult to educate students who are very gifted, those who have special, and all students in between all in the same setting. No school option can be everything to every student.
Is it important to have highly trained and certified teachers in our schools? If so, what can you do to make that happen?
I believe it is important to have highly trained and skilled teachers. I am not aware of evidence that certification of teachers ensures teacher competency. The public school system required that teachers be certified, but I support multiple methods to achieve or ensure competency.
What are some education thinkers, policymakers, or institutes that you particularly agree with or routinely use for information?
I have never served on the Education Committee. I have served on an interim committee looking at merit pay for teachers and found it very interesting. However, in terms of public education decisions, I seek information from all available sources. I then make decisions in keeping with my conviction that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children and that they should be empowered to make those decisions and given as many appropriate tools as possible to meet their responsibility.
Will you meet with major stakeholder groups in education such as the Utah Education Association and PTA?
I have always been open to meet with every stakeholder. I have never turned down a meeting request from the UEA, PTA, other parent organizations, Parents for Choice in Education, the State Office of Education, school boards, local school administrators, or those advocating for charter schools or alternate educational curriculum. I will continue to meet with any and all who are willing to meet with me.
What is the role of the legislator in mediating problems between education stakeholders? (parents, students, teachers, community leaders, district leaders, etc)
Legislators are policymakers and are responsible to craft sound public policy. One of my guiding principles is that small government, closest to the people, is the best government. I believe that applies to school districts as well. Therefore, in most cases, I favor allowing stakeholders to work out problems among themselves with the legislature taking action only when absolutely necessary.
Over the last three years have the charter schools in Nebo District, specifically American Leadership Academy, shown that parent choice creates a better school and a higher-quality education? For either yes or no, how so?
I believe that the introduction of charter schools, and particularly American Leadership Academy as the only K-12 charter school in the Nebo District, has provided another choice for parents. Whether it is a better experience depends on the student and the parents. Some advocate that it has been a better experience while others have returned to district schools and feel their needs are better met in that venue. What charter schools do is provide another option for parents to educate their children. I believe charter schools have strengthened the overall educational product just by providing another option.
Are you in favor of having Nebo District gradually assume the funding for the five charter schools within its boundaries? Why or why not?
I would prefer to see a formula-driven system funded directly from the state. I think there is a natural and healthy friction between charter schools and district schools, but I am concerned that friction would be aggravated by having funding come directly from the individual districts. However, if it is to come through a property tax assessment, transparency is vital.
2008 per-pupil expenditure for charter schools in Nebo district boundaries...
It is interesting to see that the larger charter schools are funded at a considerably lower per-pupil rate than are the smaller charter schools and the district schools. In the case of American Leadership Academy, the per-pupil expenditure is nearly $1,000 less than district pupils while the discrepancy between Reagan and district schools is roughly $1,200.
I need to understand why that is the case. I had assumed that charter schools were funded at a flat per-pupil rate.
If districts did take over more charter school funding, and the cost of building the charter schools is included in that funding, wouldn't that mean that property tax money would be directly channeled into your business as a major builder of Utah charter schools? What would you do about that conflict of interest?
Let me first state that I discontinued any charter school development in Utah three years ago because of the negative public perception. Going forward, any of these solutions would not affect me directly. However, if charter schools were funded in the same fashion as district schools so that there is no need for private investors or risk capital, it would seem to me that charter schools would then have to change their procurement method to be more similar to district schools.