ST. GEORGE – While much attention has been given to particular political races for local, state, and national offices, some races become eclipsed in their wake. One such race is for the Utah State Board of Education District 15 seat, representing Iron and Washington counties.
The two candidates involved in the race are Bette Arial of St. George and Barbara Corry of Cedar City.
Corry’s name may be familiar to people in the education community, particularly in Iron County where she served on the county school board from 1991 to 2011. She has held high-level positions in the Utah School Board Association over the last decade, and has served on the Utah High School Activities Association Board of Directors. Additionally, she has held positions in a myriad of related organizations, culminating in 35 years of experience in the realm of public education.
While experience can speak to prospective voters, the question remains – why vote for Corry for District 15’s seat on the state school board?
“I am really the best candidate,” Corry said, and touted not only her experience, but also the issues she said needed to be addressed at the state level.
“Public education can’t survive without funding,” Corry said. She is looking at many different ways to help fund the school districts throughout the state,and said she wasn’t very happy with how the state legislature has handled things.
The legislature, she said, has a bad habit of dipping its hands in the state’s education fund for this or that project. On top of that, budget cuts, as well as discontinued funding for certain programs, are making matters worse.
“The legislature is tying our hands on how the money can be used,” Corry said.
Something else Corry said needs to stop is giving charter schools money that was meant to go to the school districts. Since the charter schools do not answer to the school districts in which they reside, but rather to the state, she said the legislature should find an alternative means of funding them.
“Until public schools are properly funded we have no business taking money for charter schools,” said Corry supporter Kara Perry, a public educator with the Washington School District.
Corry said she understood that, individually, trying to enact change was impractical. However, she said she knows how to work with school boards and would work for a consensus of purpose on the state board.
“I can bring people together,” she said, and partly attributed this to the respect she has gained over the last 35 years from educators, public officials, and others.
Perception of educators
Another issue Corry wants to address at the state level is what she described as the poor perception of teachers in the eyes of the public and some legislators.
“Some people believe teachers don’t know how to teach,” she said.
On her website, Corry wrote that the public and legislature make many demands on educators. Some of those demands are even conflicting. Yet, when educators tried to make sense of the mandates and the demands and failed to deliver, the public and civic leaders became angry.
She said, “…unless we have educators who feel valued, feel empowered and can financially afford to teach, our children will not receive the education they require to achieve in this world.”
So why vote for Corry?
“It’s important we have good schools,” Corry said. Despite the issues facing the school districts in the state, she also said Washington and Iron Counties have incredible schools. She said it is necessary for the schools to remain strong and continue to improve because “public education is what binds communities together.”
As a member of the Utah School Board Association and similar organizations, some of which have taken her to the halls of the legislature, she said, “I’ve always represented Washington and Iron County.”
She would also help bring focus to a state school board that has become highly politicized, she said.
Facets in the legislature and even on the state school board support agendas that are not friendly to public education, Corry said. Instead of working to improve public education and help students and teachers, these forces work in favor of specials interests.
As an example of special interests, Corry pointed to her opponent, Bette Arial. Arial is currently employed by the Sutherland Institute, a conservative public policy think tank. The Institute supported school vouchers during the 2007 voting cycle. Arial has denied sharing her employer’s view, as well as any perceived conflicts of interest. “I don’t always agree with them,” Arial said of the Institute.
“How can you be impartial when your employer isn’t?” Corry said.
To further differentiate herself from Arial, Corry said she has more experience in education. Arial only has a handful by comparison. “She doesn’t know about education,” she said. “I understand education.”
Corry also said she supports local teachers, and not special interests.
Corry has gained a long list of endorsements, among which include Max Rose, superintendent of the Washington County School District, and the Utah Education Association.
Individuals who would like to learn more about Corry and her campaign for the District 15 seat on the Utah State School Board are encouraged to visit her website for more information.
Published simultaneously with this report is St. George News companion report on candidate Bette Arial.
Ed. note: St. George News is a politically neutral publication and does not endorse or support candidates running for the Utah State School Board, or any other local, state or national office.
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