On March 19, 2012 the UtahEducation Association’s political action committee sent out the following questionnaire, to “all candidates…[who] desire to be endorsed or recommended to our 18,000+ members…” While I do not seek the endorsement of UEA, I have undertaken to answer their questions so that my positions on these issues can be clearly known and made available to those who will vote in District #52. – Jewel
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?
This question is pretty thoroughly addressed here on my campaign website. But, in direct response, I am running because I want to participate, I want to see the principles I believe in at, more effectively at work in Utah. I love Utah and I love freedom. My family has a well known and long history of loyalty to this state and to public service and education. Therefore, my top three priorities are education/school choice, family law reform, and fighting government corruption. In the most recent legislative sessions, these issues have not received the serious and broad based attention they deserve. Further, as changes are made at the federal level, bringing back to the states – several important responsibilities – in the areas of health care, and social programs, it is essential that Utah be governed by strong principles more than the temptation to pander and dole.
2. Please describe your previous public service.
I have not held elective office. I believe however, the “public” service includes commitments our citizens make to the well-being of our state in many other areas. For example, I have been heavily involved in education (private schools, charter schools, and public/government schools) and I have also been very active in the private sector. It should be noted, that Utah businessmen and women create more jobs and provide more “service” to the citizens of this state than any “government” program. Government programs and “public service” are essential to our State, however, they should not overshadow the voluntary efforts of free citizens in all their various pursuits. Defending and preserving freedom is first on the list for any citizen embarking on the real road to public service.
3. What personal experiences hae you had with traditional public schools and/or with charter schools. (Please be as specific as possible.)
I currently have six school aged children. All of them have had experience in government, charter, and private schools. My oldest daughter is graduating this year from Herriman High. I have worked directly with Jordan School District and school administrators and educators for years pertaining to my three oldest children. My three oldest children also attended a charter school. All of my children, at different times they have also attended private schools including Challenger Academy and Kimber Academy. I have been a parent volunteer in public schools, and have been a teacher and administrator for private schools. I have written a comprehensive reading curriculum for small children. My family and I have also been involved with home schooling in Utah and abroad. I have spoken to home schooling conferences and have also spoken to and trained home schooling parents and administrators. With this wide range of experience I am uniquely qualified to navigate the different political interest in education in Utah.
4. Serious attempts to limit the rights of teachers and other public employees were proposed, but defeated this year. What is your view on the rights for public employees regarding collective bargaining, payroll deduction of dues and other association issues?
Rights, are always first and foremost a question of individuals, not groups. This is a center piece of freedom and equality. As far as “collective bargaining” rights in Utah, nothing I’m aware of in Utah law requires public employers to bargain with their employees. This is important. Its also important that in 2009 Utah passed HB 210 requiring school districts (and charter schools) to post their collective bargaining agreements online.
Its interesting to me that this question is on the survey. While it has become quite controversial in several states, the reason Sen. Stephenson reportedly dropped the recent bills mentioned here is that other legislators aren’t “hearing a lot about it” and concluded “this isn’t a timely” issue. In my conversations with average Utahns, most don’t even have the slightest idea what is behind the controversy (or even a conversant understanding of what “collective bargaining” rights are in the first place.)
Nevertheless, my position is based upon principle. All citizens have the same rights as everyone else: to life, liberty and property. As this applies to the workplace, each person has the right to choose his or her contracts. Each person also has the right to have his or her property and lives rigorously protected by the government. At the core of this issue, free citizens have the right to meet with anyone, including other workers, to try to organize for improved contracts and work conditions (i.e. unions).
However, free individuals do not have the right to deny other individuals the right to contract (which is what happens when “collective bargaining” is enforced by majority rule among the workers). Individuals, separately or with their colleagues, have the right to strike, but they don’t have any right to get their old jobs back if they do so. Striking is a risk, taken to demonstrate to their managers/employers/owners of their employer the increased value of the striking worker(s). A strike should fail when the workers can be easily and effectively replaced because such marketplace reality demonstrates that the “value” being exchanged for the work – is fair, given all circumstances.
Its also important to address the crucial differences between public and private sector works—differences that give government(public) employees enormous advantages over both their employers and their private-sector counterparts, and that argue against “forced” collective bargaining in the public sector. For example, government employees – even without unionization – have major advantages over private-sector workers. They are guarded by civil-service protections and most work in non-competitive fields where their employer has a monopoly, so their jobs are not threatened by competitors, and therefore are not linked directly to their ability to keep their employer competitive.
Collective bargaining among government employees is a serious issue when it comes to politics. By leveraging their numbers and resources, “public” unions become major players in politics. At election time, public employees play a disproportionately large role in choosing their own employers or bosses (by getting certain people elected and not others), which of course no private-sector union can do.
At all levels of government, research indicates that government-worker unions are among the biggest political donors. Between elections, they use political power to influence those elected officials and the political process more generally to improve their pay, benefits, or conditions, and also to increase demand for their services through legislation that increases the size or role of government. For instance, the nearly universal objection by teacher’s unions to school-choice programs.
Collective bargaining is often used as a tool to make private negotiations that should be open to the public—decisions about government priorities and public budgets. Thus, “forced” collective bargaining turns government employees into a formal procedural adversary of the public they serve. This funametnally contracts the nature of our republic, which is why even the biggest advocates of unionism have historically not supported “forced” collective bargaining with the government. Franklin Roosevelt, for example, said that “collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.” George Meany (the first president of the AFL-CIO) said it was “impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”
As far as “dues,” it is again a question of freedom. If an individual requests that his or her union dues be deducted from their paycheck, I support it. But, I do not and cannot support a system that functions like some kind of Internet scam, where “until further notice” and “unless you notify us otherwise” and without any advance consent on your part, we will be charging your dues automatically and deducting them from your paycheck. This is an age old form of coercion and no freedom loving citizen in the state of Utah can support such an approach without a significant degree of hypocrisy.
5. In 2007, Utah voters overwhelmingly rejected private school vouchers, would you continue to support this position while serving in the legislature?
This is not an honest question. Since 2005 Utah has operated a successful private school voucher program for very needy children. While this program is limited in scope, it has been virtually untouched for almost a decade. Utah citizens, in 2007, voted to repeal the broad, comprehensive voucher program that had been signed into law by then Gov. Huntsman. Since that time, that program has not been re-visited.
In general, school choice is my highest priority. Any interested person can read more about my specific policy statement on this, here at my website. In answer to this question specifically, I am not limited in my notions of school choice to any one program. I do, however, support the principle based approach that virtually every state in the union is now recognizing, regarding improvements that come in the lives of students and their families with increased choice in education – and this often means vouchers and/or tax credits. Government school teachers and administrators as well as private school teachers and administrators should all be able to agree that the most important value is “education” not the business of protecting a bureaucracy from modernity, change, and improvement.
6. Substantive public education reform legislation was passed this year 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.
Addressing the issue of “positive collaboration” rather than the merits of the legislation passed (since this is the question that was asked) I would work to continually expand who is included in this sphere of the so-called “education community.” The more participation in the sphere, from diverse interests, backgrounds and organizations, the more likely the real issues of “reform” are going to be addressed.
7. Utah currently has the lowest funded Public Education System in the United States. What ideas do you have related to this challenge?
Funding for public schools is important, given the structure of our education system today. However, it is widely recognized that there is no “direct” causation or correlation between “per pupil” funding and increased performance. There will be times when government run schools need more money, and Utah has an excellent track record of addressing this specific question and has been ranked as the most “effective” dollar-to-performance system in the country. This question, regarding money, however, cannot be adequately answered in a vacuum. Reform has to be looked at as a large package, and spending cannot be isolated or considered without regard to all other major issues at place. While I am not opposed to all considerations of more spending, it is far more important that the education system in Utah be well managed, before simply increasing revenues. I would not support increased funding without corresponding reforms that ensure increased effectiveness for the young people of Utah who are students and whose future is riding on such decisions.
8. In a few short years many in the teaching ranks will be retiring, what should Utah do to attract new and retain existing highly qualified teachers?
We should have fewer barriers to entry into the teaching profession, we should promote competence and performance and reward it accordingly and we should increase school choice to increase the attractiveness and competitiveness of the entire arena of education.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issues facing public education?
Public education, first and foremost, should be broadened – in the minds of the people – to mean more than “government” education. All schools, all educators, and all students in the State of Utah – including those schooled from home and religious institutions – are involved in improving our public society. The government, right now, plays an essential role but it is not, by itself, public education. Further, there is an urgent and pressing need for increased choice, innovation, student opportunity and emphasis on learning rather than other tangential concerns. I am glad to see the innovation and progress regarding distance and internet learning. Finally, a huge burden exists when teachers have to focus so much time and effort on matters unrelated to classroom performance. Whether it is class size, class make-up, or political bureaucracy, reforms must be constantly implemented to give maximum preference to teachers being in, and focused on, classroom activities and the education of each individual student.
10. What role do you support for the Utah Education Association and the teachers we represent as the state moves forward in advancing education?
I expect that the Utah Education Association and its members (who are free Utah citizens) are best situated to answer this question. As such, the government (including state legislators), really has no business answering this question.