September 21, 2014

UPDATED OCT. 24: House candidates answer questions regarding economy, education

Questions 3 and 4: education

Posted
This editorial forum is to let voters get insight on which candidate they feel is best suited to represent them in Lansing. Incumbent Tim Moore (R-Farwell) and Kathy Wilton (D) were both asked to respond to the same questions, two on the local economy and two on education.

Question 3:

Schools in Arenac County are losing students every year whether a student has to move due to relocation of a working parent or dissatisfaction with a district. How will you help these three local schools (Standish-Sterling Community Schools District, AuGres-Sims School District, Arenac Eastern School District) with the burden of losing state funding when they lose students and how can you help schools grow and provide the resources necessary to attract and keep students?

Kathy Wilton:First and foremost, the Legislature has not made good on its promise when Proposal A was passed in 1994 that changed the financial structure on how our public schools are funded. All K-12 public school districts were supposed to be put on equal footing wherein each would receive the same student foundation grant statewide. This has not happened and every year our northern school districts face the same dilemma of budgeting for the ensuing year not knowing if there is enough sales tax revenue to fund and keep up with the rate of inflation for our school districts. Meanwhile, each year legislators in Lansing drag their feet on passing a balanced state budget that puts our districts between “a rock and a hard place.” So for 14 years, out-state districts have been shortchanged with their funding and this practice should be stopped. In addition to equitably restoring student foundation grants, I believe a countywide effort should be made to develop alternative energy jobs to revitalize the local economy. In doing so, this measure will attract families back to the county. If job revitalization doesn’t occur in the not-too-distant future, Arenac County’s three school districts will continue to lose their student population, which will result in some form of consolidation or consortium to provide the best education possible for these K-12 youngsters. Currently, Arenac Eastern’s school population is under 300; AuGres lost 50 students this year bringing their population to 400; and Standish-Sterling is down 21 students bringing their total to 1,802. With the escalating drop in students, some form of collaboration between the districts is imminent.

Tim Moore: Part of this issue all comes back to jobs. The schools in Arenac County are losing students to relocation because of the state of the economy in Michigan. We need to first address job creation in this area if we are going to get families to stay here and raise their families. Secondly, the funding gap between these schools and schools in different parts of the state needs to change. One of the biggest battles that I have fought in Lansing since joining the legislature is closing the funding gap between the highest per-pupil funded schools and the lowest funded per-pupil schools which is every school in the 97th District. Some strides have been made in recent years however there is much more that can be done. The children in the 97th District are worth every dime that the children in Southeast Michigan are worth. While other schools are deciding what facility to build next, our schools struggle to bus our students. If our children are expected to compete in both school and eventually the job market, they deserve every resource that the students in the rest of the state are receiving.

Question 4:

Many people feel that state education requirements dealing with AYP and MEAP scores are not accurately reflecting the success/failure of a school district. Do you feel this way? If so how would you try to change the educational assessment system? If you agree with the current standards, please support your position.

Tim Moore: I absolutely DO NOT believe that these scores are accurately reflecting the success/failure of a school district. As I said in the previous question, some schools in other parts of the state are receiving thousands of dollars more per pupil then the schools in the 97th district. How can our children be expected to perform at the same level with fewer resources? Secondly, while I do believe that schools must prove that our children are learning, I think the government needs to let our teachers do what they are educated to do and teach our children as they were trained. Too often government incorrectly feels that they have all the answers when they don’t. As a father of three young boys, I trust that my children’s teachers who spend everyday with them in the classroom know the best education path for them as opposed to some bureaucrat in Washington D.C. I know this because I have seen their success it firsthand. It’s time to let the teachers teach and allow more decision making at the local level.

Kathy Wilton: Yes. The Adequate yearly Progress (AYP) report card is a monster created at the federal level through the ESEA (No Child Left Behind). It does not adequately and/or accurately reflect student progress. Example: District A has 85 percent success rate in passing the MEAP. The following year the district’s percentage drops to 84 percent and is labeled a failure, earning minimal points towards AYP. District B has 50 percent success rate in passing the MEAP. The following year this district’s percentage is 51 percent thus they have made AYP, and are deemed to be successful by scoring high points when only 51 percent of its student population passed the MEAP. Do you think District A is a failure with an overall passing rate of the MEAP at 84 percent of its student population? District B demonstrates 51 percent of its student population passing the MEAP. Obviously, District A is more successful with the MEAP; however, it is considered a failure. My suggestion is to get rid of the AYP report card and use the MEAP test scores to accurately reflect student progress. Another suggestion is to move MEAP testing back to spring. How can you test third graders on math and English and language arts at the beginning of the school year when they haven’t had time to learn third grade skills at that point in time? It makes better sense to test them on these subjects in the spring after they have had time to learn and use these skills for three-fourths of the year.

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