Five Republicans seeking one of three seats on school board | Education

Five Republican candidates are seeking one of three 1st District seats on the Washington County Board of Education.

The winners of the May 3 GOP primary will stand alone on the Aug. 4 general election ballot.

The candidates are Kerrie Aistrop, a sales representative and school advocate; Annette Buchanan, an incumbent and former teacher; Cody Day, an electrician and realtor; Keith Ervin, an incumbent and dairy farmer; and Vince Walters, a criminal investigator with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

• WHAT LEVEL OF EDUCATION FUNDING DO YOU BELIEVE SHOULD COME FROM THE STATE AND COUNTY GOVERNMENTS?

aistrop: “The current Basic Education Program formula does not provide the funding for our school system to run at its potential. This formula sends money from the state while the local county is responsible for the remainder. This model prevents our school system from being able to pay what surrounding systems pay. The current formula also makes capital projects double the cost to taxpayers. The latest figure I received from the County Commission is that 61% of the county budget is spent on the education budget.”

Buchanan: “In my opinion the state should be funding the bulk of the money to educate our students. The local county government needs to have a stake in education because the local school system is educating the future workforce for our county.”

Day: “I believe that the current level of federal funding is around 8%. I believe that we need as little federal oversight as possible. I would love to see the state’s money better utilized. I once read an article that stated only around 53% of the state funds make it to the classroom, imagine if 90% even 100% could cross the threshold and benefit our students.”

Ervin: “If the state sets new mandates, the state covers the funding for two or three years and then it is left up to the system to maintain funding after that period of time. This is the point when the school system has to request additional funding from the County Commission in order to follow state mandates. If the school system is required to meet these mandates, the state should continue with the funding.”

Walters: “Our schools need to obtain all monies that we can from grants, state and federal funding, as well as corporate sponsorships. You get out of things what you put into them.”

• WHAT ROLE SHOULD PARENTS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS PLAY IN CURRICULUM DECISIONS MADE BY THE SCHOOL BOARD?

aistrop: “Transparency is key on the curriculum debates we are seeing across the country. There is a big difference between curriculum standards and the book companies’ material. A school system in Tennessee had parents and teachers work in a cooperative group to study the material before choosing a book company. This opened the doors for teachers and parents to bring to the board their recommendations. This type of transparency gives teachers and parents a way to work together.”

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Buchanan: “The stakeholders of our district should have the opportunity to present concerns and opinions to the Board of Education. Parents need to be involved in a child’s education. It is important community members and parents are well involved and informed. Stakeholders should have a seat on committees for book adoptions and there should be committees working with the director of schools and his staff to reach the common goals of supporting all of our students.”

Day: “As a parent I believe that we should play a huge role in our child’s education and I believe that we often overlook this responsibility at home. I think that if we as parents were utilized more when possible that the education system would benefit greatly. Obviously this will take structure and parents involvement, but I believe it’s possible because ultimately we know our kids the best.”

Ervin: “I value parents’ and community groups’ opinions, and I am always open to listen to their thoughts. However, we must follow curriculum guidelines set forth by the Tennessee Department of Education and State Board of Education.”

Walters: “It is extremely important that we have parents and community groups involved in our schools and its programs. The parents and community groups can gather important information from our population on ideas and concerns in reference to curriculum decisions.”

• WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON EXPANDING CHARTER SCHOOLS?

aistrop: “I am an advocate for public education. Public education is not fully funded at this point. It is proven that smaller class sizes bring up literacy levels in our kids. When charter schools take these kids away from public education, it means less funding for public schools. Less funding for public schools means less opportunities that leads to higher child and teacher ratios.”

Buchanan: “Charter schools take money away from public education. They do not have to follow the same rules or policies that a public school is mandated to follow. Therefore, not all charter schools will be up to standards of a quality learning environment.”

Day: “We will have to learn how to exist in unison. The same as private and public does now. I believe that alternate learning opportunities have their benefits and if done correctly, could impact many kids for the better. Visa versa, if done incorrectly or unbalanced, it will impact many kids in a negative way.”

Ervin: “Personally, I am not for charter schools. All schools, both public and charter schools, should follow the same accountability guidelines in order to receive state and federal funding.”

Walters: “It’s not really about the funding, it’s about what our children in Washington County need. It’s about accountability to our children, parents, teachers and staff. I believe that public schools are a good way to direct our students together.”

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