By Joe Bachman
With elections right around the corner, the Wisconsin Rapids League of Women Voters invited candidates to speak to a live audience on Wednesday night.
Held inside the Wisconsin Rapids Community Media center, current incumbent school board member John Krings was joined by candidates Sandra Hett and Jim Scott. Voters will be able to choose two out of these three candidates for spots on the local school board on April 4.
The candidates took a range of questions and subjects from student vouchers and per-pupil aid, to their thoughts on the biggest issue facing the schools. Below are some notable excerpts from these topics.
Krings: “I feel like our children’s great success is due in no small part to the educational development found in the WRPS. For the past 10 years I have proudly served on the WRPS board of education as board president — we have an outstanding school system in Wisconsin Rapids.”
Scott: “I’m here to bring the voters and taxpayers a clear alternative to the status quo. I’m here to advocate for universal parental choice. The current form of public education in Wisconsin is broken.”
Hett: “I believe that home and community must be an entangled part of the educational process. I’m dedicated to maintaining the best education for every student.”
Biggest Issue Facing Local Schools?
Scott: “There seems to be a disconnect between the board and the community, and it needs to be repaired. It’s problematic.”
Hett: “I think we have a great rapport [between board and community] — So many people think the board of education, the administration, and teachers should be at each other constantly — we have to work for what’s best for the students, and we have to get along.”
Krings: “I would have to say since Act 10 the public educators in the state of Wisconsin have went down, and that’s very unfair, as they’re the ones out in the field everyday working with every child that comes in the building.”
Thoughts on Gov. Walker’s Proposed Per-Pupil Aid?
Hett: “What we’ve done is taking what the Governor is suggesting and budgeting for half of that — we’d be happy to get half of that. We always budget for worst-case scenario.”
Krings: “When the budgets are developed, they’re developed with the understanding that any extra money that comes is more things we can do. We’ve been very frugal in the 10 years since I’ve been on the board, and we have cut annually every single year.”
Scott: “I do do “if” questions, because they’re hypotheticals and they can lead to entrapment — with choice, the state would establish a monetary amount that each student would cost. Each parent would be given a debit card for that value — and that parent can take that money and select where and how they can spend that money to further their child’s education.”
On School Vouchers
Hett: “If the state can support two educational systems then that’s fine, but the state can’t even support one education system. Vouchers do not have the same rules — there are no open meetings, no open records requests, no accountability. Private is private.”
Krings: “They [voucher schools] don’t have the same testing requirements as we do, they don’t have the school report card, they don’t have to account for how they hold their meetings or the decisions they make. They don’t have the same state mandated curriculum or testing. They can select the students they wish to have. I am not in favor of voucher schools — they can teach what they want, how they want, and when they want to do it.”
Scott: “School choice allows the parents to be empowered in choosing how and where their kids are to be educated. This changes the paradigm, because now you’re giving the parents the authority to control the money.”
Scott: “Here’s the deal — school choice is here to stay. Whether it’s me, or someone that follows me, school choice is coming. As a challenger I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The incumbents have everything to lose, both in power in money. If you want the status quo, and the same benign performance and results, then vote for the incumbents. If you are willing to take the risk of supporting school choice, we can take education in a whole new direction.”
Hett: “Public schools are under fire. The Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos is a fierce proponent of vouchers, and neither she, or her children ever attended public schools, and yet she’s head of the Department of Education. I believe our local school board should be composed of individuals who believe in public education — I strongly believe in public education.”
Krings: “We’re a very diverse community both socially and economically, and our students are offered many different programs of study. I’m very proud of my 10 years of service, and I look forward to the opportunity to serve the community of Wisconsin Rapids. It’s a wonderful place to live and raise a family.”
The City Times will have more coverage on each school board candidate in the coming weeks.