Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dan LeRette, Republican, House District 33

Thanks for your survey, answers below:

1. Opting out of testing. Many parents are concerned that important educational values are being sacrificed because of the use of high-stakes standardized testing to evaluate kids, schools, and educators. Would you support legislation to permit parents to opt their children out of such testing without repercussions?

A: I would not support "opting-out" of testing. The measurement of results of each student and teacher is important. If we are to improve our schools we can best do so by having a uniform assessment of performance from which real conclusions can be drawn.

2. Cuts in lunch and recess. In our district, the time devoted to recess has been reduced, and the elementary school students get only fifteen minutes or less to eat lunch. District officials attribute those changes directly to state pressure to teach more material and maximize “instructional minutes.” (See posts here and here.) What, if anything, should the state do to remedy the situation?

A: This issue should be taken up at the local school board level rather than through state mandate. Lunch time required would vary at the local level, for example a large urban school has a much different set of challenges just getting 100's of students through a cafeteria line as opposed to a small rural school, where less time may be needed.

3. Local control. Because of state and federal regulation, individual communities now have relatively little control over the educational policies that govern their schools, and many parents feel that they have little to no say over what goes on in their kids’ schools. Do you think that local school districts should have more control over educational policy? If so, in what specific ways?

A: I favor more control to the local level in as many ways as we practically can. I attended a parochial school which focused on students and results rather than red tape. It was the best school in the city and spent the least $ per student. Public education could benefit in both efficiency and results by taking a page from the parochial school's best practices.

4. More school? Should state law require all kids to spend more time in school – either by lengthening the school day, extending the school year, or both? (See this post.)

A: No. Making the school day longer and making the school year longer is not necessary. If our results are slipping, spending more time doing the same things will not help much. Iowa was #1 in education in the past, but our classroom time was not longer then.

5. PBIS. The state Department of Education wants to require all school districts to implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a program that uses material rewards to train kids to reflexively obey school rules. (See posts here and here.) Do you support requiring all school districts to use PBIS?

A: No. I think this should also be a local decision.

6. Class size. Do you agree with our state Director of Education that we should tolerate larger class sizes in exchange for programs designed to “improve educator effectiveness”?

A: No. "Increasing educator effectiveness" might be something we should consider as part of the continuing education requirements for teachers.

7. No Child Left Behind. Have No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top done more harm than good, or vice versa? Should Iowa opt out of No Child Left Behind, even if it means forgoing federal funds?

A: We need to reduce Federal level involvement in all our state and local issues, this includes the education system. We should not allow the Federal government to use our tax dollars to push its agenda to the state level.

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