ST. GEORGE – Among the many campaigns that will come to a head on Nov. 6, is the race for who will represent District 15 – Iron and Washington counties – on the Utah State School Board.
Bette Arial, of St. George, is one of the candidates vying against Barbara Corry for District 15’s seat.
A matter of experience
Arial is a former member of the state school board, having served from 1997-2001. Additional experience in the field of education includes being a Dixie State College Trustee and adjunct instructor of dance and dance education, and a member of the PTA.
“I am passionate, devoted, and experienced,” Arial said. “Education needs a strong advocate.”
According to her website, Arial has also been a part of various organizations that include the Arizona Strip Interpretive Association, Utah Humanities Council, Utah Foundation Board, Rotary International, St. George and Cedar City Chambers of Commerce and President of the Celebrity Concert Series. She also currently works as a senior adviser for the Sutherland Institute.
Barbara Corry, Arial’s opponent, claims 35 years of experience in the sphere of education, having served in various local and state-level capacities. Comparing Arial’s record to her own, Corry said, “She doesn’t know about education.”
However, Arial said her mixed experience works to her advantage.
“I have experience with the greater Salt Lake community,” she said. This is important, she said, because while she served on the state school board originally, the interests of northern Utah tend to outweigh those of Southern Utah. “I have the parents, students and teachers of Southern Utah in mind,” she said.
Members of the state board will also be working with the state legislature on a regular basis. “It’s always important to work with the legislature,” she said. “I have a good, trusting relationship with them.”
Arial said her background would prove beneficial because the board is made up of more than just educators. Members of the board also represent areas of mining and manufacturing; transportation and public utilities; service, trade, and information technology; finance, insurance, and real estate; construction and agriculture. Each industry is considered a stakeholder in Utah’s educational pursuits.
Though many different interests are represented on the board, Arial said, “We need to have the children be our focus.”
Not a special interest supporter
Due to her connection to the Sutherland Institute, a conservative public policy think tank, Arial has been accused of sharing her employer’s support of school vouchers and other special interests.
Though she works for the Institute, she said, “I don’t always agree with them.”
Arial said she didn’t support the vouchers when the issue was originally voted upon, nor does she now. “It’s not the right time for vouchers,” she said. “Utah doesn’t have enough private schools to justify it.”
The state should do more to prop up its public schools and teachers rather than pursue the idea of vouchers, she said
As for charter schools, another issue that has proven controversial in the past, Arial said there should be more collaboration between the schools and the school districts in which they reside. “They should have a place at the table,” she said.
“Parents are saying something” by sending their children to public charter schools, she said. “That shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
Charter schools provide a bit more flexibility in a child’s education, and that same flexibility should be an option in the public schools as well.
One of the objections to public charter schools has been that it takes funding from the public schools. According to the Utah State Office of Education website, funding for the schools is based “on the principle that state funds follow the student. Charter schools also receive appropriate portions of local money from the school districts in which the charter school students reside.”
“We need to find ways we can increase funding to our part of the state,” she said, “and raising taxes isn’t the answer.”
On her Facebook page, Arial wrote: “Each child in District 15 … deserves an excellent, safe and well-funded education. I salute the fine educators who work tirelessly to feed the minds of our children – our future citizens and leaders.”
Why vote for Arial?
“I will be an outspoken voice for our counties,” she said, adding she would be an independent voice on the state board. “I don’t represent a special interest,” she said
Aside from a desire to represent southwestern Utah’s educational needs and seeking better collaboration between civic and educational entities at the state-level, Arial also promotes innovation in the schools.
“Our children are brighter than ever,” she said. The educational needs of children and how they are being taught is changing. If elected, Arial would push for Utah schools to integrate innovative methods of teaching in order to better prepare Utah’s children for the future.
To her detractors, Arial wrote: “We need to come together, there’s too much labeling” in education.
“I wouldn’t run if I didn’t feel I could make a difference,” she said.
Among those endorsing Arial’s bid for the Utah State School Board are Alan Gardner of the Washington County Commission, and Reps. Brad Last, Lowry Snow and various other state legislators.
Published simultaneously with this report is St. George News companion report on candidate Barbara Corry.
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.
Copyright St. George News, 2012, all rights reserved.