BY LOUISE R. SHAW
Clipper Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — Candidates for three open seats on the Davis School Board are speaking out about federal funding, property tax increases and school lunches.
Davis County residents in Precincts 1, 2 and 4 will be choosing between incumbents and challengers in some cases, and between entirely new faces in other cases in the non-partisan races.
“When I kept seeing my property tax bill go up and up, I decided it was time for me to stop complaining about it and time for me to run,” said Paul Prier, who is running against Kathie Bone for the Precinct 4 seat.
Peter Cannon was elected to the board two years ago.
“It may be that the citizens have just had enough and are just coming out to take the issue upon themselves,” he said. “If people were to realize that my vote plus the three others that I think would oppose raising property taxes would give a majority on the school board and that (raising taxes) could be put to a stop,” said Cannon, who was alone in voting against last year’s property tax increase.
Besides Prier, Sandra Mountcastle in Precinct 1 and Larry Smith in Precinct 2, who are running against incumbents, have expressed anti-tax sentiments.
Mountcastle said there are ways to do more with less and still improve education.
“I would like to see the school board not raise taxes,” she said. “The economy is such that we have all lost money on our investments.
In defending past tax increases, incumbent Barbara Smith said the district had to cut $75 million while adding 1,100 students last year and 800 more this year.
“We have critical issues like class size and we’ve got to have quality schools if we’re going to have economic development in Davis County,” she said.
Precinct 2 incumbent James Clark also mentioned class sizes.
“One of the reasons we raised taxes last year was because the classroom sizes in K-3 were very large,” he said. “If kids are not at reading level by third grade, education can be a very daunting experience.”
His opponent Larry Smith wants to maintain a fiscally conservative budget that does not require tax increases.
“That takes a lot of work to really investigate what should happen and what programs need to be adjusted,” he said.
Federal funding is a hot-button issue to several candidates in the race, and Prier said he is hesitant to accept federal aid, “because any time we accept federal aid for any reason we’re beholden to the federal government.”
“The best education system is one that is completely controlled locally,” he said. “As a state we can do everything better than the federal government can in regards to education.”
His opponent Kathie Bone disagrees.
“There could be no special education department without federal money,” she said “I think we need that extra funding.”
Federal money for free and reduced-price lunches is the only way to break the poverty cycle, she said.
Federal funding is only a small portion of the district’s budget, said Barbara Smith, but still, it’s millions of dollars “that local taxpayers would have to replace.”
“Some of those federal dollars are my federal taxes and I want them coming back to Utah,” she added.
Barbara Smith’s opponent, Mountcastle, said that the free lunch program has gotten “twisted,” and “we’ve bought it hook, line and sinker.”
“Every time the federal government touches anything it turns to ashes,” she said.
Kids are not getting enough food or seconds and “Michelle Obama had a big hand in making that happen,” said Mountcastle.
Mountcastle said the district needs to “flatten” its administration just as has been done in the healthcare industry she worked in.
“You want better education, have more teachers,” she said. “But you can’t do that with a pyramid kind of adminstration which you have here.”
Bone, who was director of elementary education until her retirement last year, disagreed that the district’s administration is too large and gets paid too much.
Bone said Davis’s ratio of administrators to students is one of the lowest in the state and that Utah’s average is lower than the nation’s.
“We also have lost administrators to other districts and to charter schools because they get paid more,” she said. “It’s a balancing act.”
Candidates also differ over the new Core Curriculum being implemented statewide.
The National Association of Governors, the Association of State School Officers and state superintendents developed that curriculum, Smith said.
Most of the states in the country have signed on to the standards and each state is developing its own version, according to Smith. With Utah’s version, teachers will use materials developed here in the state, he said.
Mountcastle said the entire process was paid for by funds given to the Department of Education, which it distributed to the companies that are creating the Core Curriculum.
Larry Smith said he reviewed a seventh-grade math textbook and didn’t see anything especially different from past manuals. He supported local prototypes that could be implemented if students really showed improvement.
Clark said the core “teaches a higher standard and that’s always a good idea” and that he is open to other ideas.