Mr. Randy Turner
Tea Party Manatee
PO Box 14425
Bradenton, FL 34280
Mr. Turner, thank you for the opportunity to complete the TPM questionnaire. I realize you will be making your candidate endorsement decisions after your regular meeting this week, however I still look forward to the opportunity to address the full TPM membership – and engage in a broader Q&A session – at the July 24 meeting.
First, I would like to address what you refer to as “distinctives” at the close of the questionnaire. I believe what sets me apart is my experience as a classroom teacher. I have been a teacher for the past 10 years – in public, private and charter school settings. The reason I chose to run for school board is that I believed the board was missing the input of an educator in their deliberations and decision making.
Further, our school board is currently recovering from a severe budgetary crisis. While we have seen a great turnaround over the past 18 months, the board still has much work to do in rebuilding trust between the board and community (including teachers in the district). I pride myself on being a person who can listen to all sides of a debate and bring people together to find middle ground on which to build solutions.
I. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being most in favor), how enthusiastically would you say you believe in the following:
A. Strict adherence to and interpretation of the U.S. Constitution – Each court has its own personality and ideological slant. The 1960s Warren Court had a much different interpretation of the U.S. Constitution than our current Roberts court. Therefore, I think it’s fair to say I’m a “10” when I agree with the Court’s interpretation but I’m a “0” when I disagree. For example, the Court ruled Obamacare to be constitutional two years ago. More recently, the Court ruled corporations to be people and money is free speech. Both decisions were delivered by the same court but angered both sides of the American political landscape.
B. A balanced budget (federal, state, local, school) ”10” We all have to live within our means, therefore so should our leaders and our governments.
C. More limited role of government in education and life in general “10” I firmly support the Libertarian ideal of “keep government out of our lives”. This includes not only our economy but also the personal lives of the citizenry. When the government tries to legislate morality and personal responsibility they are bound to fail. The government’s only duty to regulate behavior should be when that behavior causes harm to another person. I also believe there is a role for government in the case of protecting the welfare of children, protecting the environment and the protection of consumers from unscrupulous corporate behavior driven by greed.
D. Free markets and / or free trade – ”7” Free markets are great as long as all economies are competing on a level playing field. It is hard for American companies to compete with Chinese manufacturers, for example, if Chinese workers can be paid $1 for their work.
E. God & country – traditional American family values – Every American should have the freedom to decide for themselves (and their families) what religion they choose (if any) and what values they hold to be important. It is not the place of the government, or any other person or group, to try to force their viewpoint or worldview on others.
II. CCSS (Common Core State Standards) – your evaluations and opinions, especially regarding
A. Its invasion of privacy by collecting and sharing much data regarding each child and his or her family – Clearly, the collection of personal data by the federal government is very troubling. The government tells us that it is up to the states whether or not they want to collect data on students under CC. Further, we are told the data that is collected will be used to look at whole groups, not individual students. However, in this era of widespread NSA domestic surveillance of our phone and email records, it is to be expected that the citizens should be concerned and vigilant about the collection of private data of children and families.
B. Its requirement that (1) grades 6-12 English teachers spend at least 50% of their time on nonfiction and informational texts such as US political documents, court decisions, and scientific and technical manuals, As a teacher of 11th and 12th grade social studies (most recently U.S. History) I have seen a new focus on students being able to read and analyze primary source materials. I think this is a positive development in education. Historical documents and court decisions are an important part of those primary sources. I have yet to see the use of a scientific or technical manual in an English or Social Studies class. (2) English teachers would need to be retrained in order to teach children how to read technical manuals instead of works of literature, and As I said above, I haven’t seen this is my 10 years of teaching. And assuming this were true, capable English teachers will do what they’ve always done – apply the same teaching methods that they have found to be successful. I do not believe any retraining will need to take place, although I’m skeptical of this requirement at all. (3) our children will no longer be taught cursive handwriting. I teach 11th grade and I have very few students who can write cursive. I don’t find this to be an impediment to their learning or success. Today’s students are growing up in a technological age. I believe that typing/keyboarding classes are far more important for today’s students than cursive handwriting.
III. Philosophies invading our schools – please comment or at least indicate to which of the following you hold:
A. Abortion and contraceptives vs. adoption and abstinence – Schools are a good place to provide sex education to young people. Providing students with information on their own bodies and their own sexuality will go a long way toward drastically reducing the number of unintended pregnancies (and therefore abortion) in our community.
B. The theory of evolution vs. intelligent design of creation – Students should be exposed to both theories and be allowed to form their own conclusions on the origins of man.
C. Hetero-sexual monogamy vs. bi-sexuality, homosexuality, and trans-genderism – All students should be treated equally and without discrimination regardless of their sexual orientation. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also the law.
D. Man-made global warming – Students should be exposed to competing theories regarding climate change and be given the freedom to come to their own conclusions.
E. Socialism – Public school systems are, by their structure and funding, a socialist endeavor. We are using public money to provide a public good – an educated populace. Socialism as an economic system has been shown to be a failure. However, if we want to completely eliminate socialism from our society, should we also eliminate public schools?
IV. School vouchers – Bad idea. I am a supporter of public education and school vouchers undermine that concept. Allowing public money to support religious and/or a private, for-profit school is the antithesis of equal public education for all students.
V. Distinctives – Feel free to add any things that “set you apart” (see introduction) in this school board race, including (if you wish) your views on principles, policies, and/or procedures as contrasted with those of other school board candidates – perhaps in some of these areas:
A. Economy / efficiency – lowering the educational costs per student – I would like the see the class size amendment changed to allow for 3-7 (depending on grade level, subject) more students per classroom. This would lower the cost of education per student while not placing an undue hardship on classroom teachers.
B. Curriculum – is best decided by local school boards and local school leaders.
C. Textbooks – School districts should invest in computers and digital tools and less on textbooks. Almost all textbook companies now offer online textbooks and online activities. Our school district spends hundreds of thousands on textbooks and their supporting materials every 4-5 years. This massive investment in books could be better utilized in technology tools.
D. Testing – While assessing students on what they have learned and how they are progressing is a good idea, the testing, testing, testing mentality of American education has spun out of control. Today’s graduating classes have taken nearly 100 standardized tests through their K-12 education. Instead of raising children who are critical thinkers and problem solvers, we are raising a nation of test-takers.