House District 26 Republican candidates Rep. Vic Williams, Terri Proud and Wade McLean shared their views about public school funding ahead of the Aug. 24 primary election.
"I don't think you have to hate children to be a Republican," said District 26 candidate Wade McLean, a career Marana educator who says he would be a voice for education in the state capitol.
McLean believes the conversation about education needs some energy directed toward "an economic development plan. Let's talk about the revenue side."
McLean wants conversations with the state's three "excellent state universities" regarding their role in stimulating the economy. "How can you leave the university systems out of that?" McLean says. "Success at the university and community college system begins in K-12, specifically K-3."
He is a supporter of funding for full-day kindergarten. "You don't cut full-day kindergarten and pass a law" that requires children to be reading at grade level in the third grade in order for them to advance. If children are held back two years because they don't read at third-grade level, they won't graduate from high school, he says. "No 20-year-olds graduate from high school."
In Marana, McLean made full-day kindergarten less expensive than day care, "so parents could see the advantaged. And we started having results."
Before the Legislature cut funding for full-day kindergarten, "did they go to a research group, to the universities" and ask about the effects, he asked. "Decisions are made without any input from professionals, and not just in education, across the board."
Education is Terri Proud's "favorite topic," the District 26 Republican candidate said.
She calls for "more transparency" in K-12 schools, so "we can find out where the money is going, and why it's not being pushed into classrooms. Education gets more than 50 percent of the budget, and certain taxes are just for education.
"People think it's all about money," Proud said. "For me, it's about where the money is going. When the taxpayers are paying, they have a right to know why their children are not being educated, and where the money is going."
While Northwest schools are "pretty decent districts," she does not say the same for Tucson schools. Proud cites examples of what she believes to be wasteful spending. "That irks me," Proud said.
"Allow teachers to do their jobs, hold kids and parents accountable, and you're going to see a difference," Proud said.
Rep. Vic Williams believes his public support for Proposition 100, the temporary sales tax approved by Arizona voters in May, demonstrates his commitment to public education.
"If 100 had failed, we had no where else to cut but education," Williams said. "We spared it more than any other state agency in Arizona. That's why I had to come out for Proposition 100. We had no where left to go."
"Under the worst economic circumstances in our state's history, under the largest deficit shortfall ever seen in Arizona, we have been able to mitigate the impacts of these realities on education." The state faced 33 percent shortfalls; education is taking a reduction between 7 and 8 percent.
That said, Williams believes school districts "have to be held accountable for their stake in this issue.
"Tough choices are going to have to be made at local school districts," Williams said. He believes they have high administrative costs and declining enrollment. "There are internal decisions that need to be made at local levels.
"Laying blame at each other's feet is not the answer, is not productive, and doesn't solve our issues," Williams said.
1 of 3 filled out education group survey
The Arizona Education Network, a coalition of parents and education supporters formed last year in Southern Arizona, has asked candidates for the Arizona Legislature to respond to a questionnaire.
Two of the Republican candidates for the District 26 House seat have chosen not to complete the survey.
"I feel the AEN is biased," said incumbent Rep. Vic Williams. "They claim budget votes are either 'for' or 'against' education. Yes, we reduced spending to education. However, education was impacted the least in this incredibly horrible time we've been in.
"I stood with Governor Brewer, I voted 'yes' for Proposition 100 two times on the floor, and I publicly supported it. And voted for it. I knew that's what we needed to do."
Terri Proud did not complete the survey.
"You get inundated with those things," Proud said. "A lot of it is maybe it's something I don't agree with. Maybe it's not a fair analysis."
Candidate Wade McLean completed the document.
"What's the message?" McLean asked. "I filled out the survey because I have a proven track record of doing what I say I will do. And whether it is politically expedient or not, I will tell people the way I feel, and I'm not sure everybody feels that way. People have a right to know how you stand on the issues. That's why I filled out the survey."
The survey asked candidates 12 questions. Each question had a series of statements as responses, and the candidates were asked to choose one with which they agree, with additional space to comment.