We asked all candidates to fill out a survey and our group has chosen to endorse, recommend or not recommend based on their answers. Here are Amber Bonner’s responses that shows that she is a great representative for our teachers, students and parents!
How do you define SEL strategies and what do you believe it does in the classroom?
SEL is Social and Emotional Learning. This can cover a wide range of topics, and in an ideal situation parents are working on these topics with their children at home. Many of our students need additional SEL support at school, however. Teachers and other school employees are in a great position to help students practice SEL skills and improve them. Students with strong SEL skills are better able to manage themselves during the school day and to be successful academically. Some topics that might fall under the SEL umbrella include topics such as patience, self-reflection and kindness, or lessons about working hard, never giving up or being a better listener. Commitment, dedication, compassion, service, and other important concepts are also a part of SEL lessons. I think these topics are applicable and valuable for our students. When my oldest child began high school, our high school had series of student suicides that were devastating to the community. I was grateful that the school began providing additional SEL support to students and to families, and I think that our schools still have an important role to play in assisting families with SEL learning.
What importance do you attribute to PE and health and how do feel about the cuts made to these subject areas in the past?
I think that PE, Health, and the Fine Arts are crucial for a well-rounded education. Our students need to know many skills to be well-educated, and not all those things are included in traditionally academic subjects. In addition, these types of classes give many students a change of pace during the day, helping them to focus on more rigorous subjects when it is time for them. Younger students, especially, need to have a physical break during the day. There are also a lot of topics covered in PE and Health that students may not learn at home. Health classes can teach children how germs are spread and what is appropriate personal hygiene care. PE classes teach sportsmanship, taking turns, and the rules to many different activities that students may not have been exposed to before. So, these classes all provide valuable, hands-on knowledge for our students that can help them throughout their lives.
What ideas have you formulated that will increase public school funding to keep up with growth, fully compensate teachers for their expertise and commitment to teaching, ensure they have the classroom resources they need to be effective educators, and making teacher retention a priority?
I would really like to see Impact Fees made available to our schools. I believe our public school buildings are a crucial part of our infrastructure. When new homes are built, a need is created for more roads, sewer, water, parks, AND schools. It is strange to me that we have impact fees for roads, sewer, water, and parks, but not for schools. I would like to see this changed. I am committed to increasing teacher compensation and providing them the resources they need to be successful in the classroom. I have advocated for increased funding at the legislative level and will continue to speak about the needs of our schools. Our property tax rate system also needs to be looked at- currently the rate adjusts without any type of allowance for inflation. This is particularly damaging in an economic climate like our current one. I would be in favor of adjustments to the Truth in Taxation system to address this concern
How do you define CRT and do you believe it is currently being taught in Utah public schools?
Critical Race Theory is a graduate level academic theory used for legal analysis. It is not allowed in Utah’s K-12 schools due to USBE rule 277-328, passed last year. There are many things that are considered tenets of CRT, and some of those might be appropriate in our K-12 schools, like teaching children that people can look differently than each other and still have the same thoughts and feelings and cares. But CRT as an academic theory is inappropriate for K-12 students.
What vetting process do you support when a parent objects to a book in their child’s school? What actions do you believe school districts should take or not take?
School districts should always follow the law in what materials they provide for instructional use. If a parent has a concern about a particular book, schools/districts should have a process whereby a book can be reviewed to see if it is appropriate. This review committee should have both parents and educators on it. Items that are reviewed should be evaluated for compliance to state law and should only be removed if a violation of state law is found. If removed books are disproportionally about one subject or another, it would be wise for schools to replace those books with titles covering the same subject matter without the graphic content. Parents should always have the ability to ask for an alternative assignment if they feel a particular title is inappropriate for their own child.
Considering legislation that has been proposed in the last 10 years, how would you vote on voucher/school choice bills?
I think that school choice is an important issue. Every child is different, and their needs are unique. But at the same time, education provided with public tax dollars should have accountability to taxpayers. And I do not think that taxpayers should be asked to fund every possible choice for every student. We need to balance the need for educational choice with the limited tax dollars we have. School Choice bills should not take resources from our already under funded public schools to give additional access to schools with no public accountability. There are several programs and scholarships that already provide funds for students who have unique academic needs- like the Carson Smith Scholarship and the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship. I would love to see a review of these programs before any more voucher/school choice bills are introduced. It is my understanding that these programs do not receive enough requests for funding to allocate all their available funding every year. If there are unique student concerns that need additional support, I would be in favor of adjustments to existing support mechanisms, but I am not in favor of additional funds being used in this way.
What are your views on the Summit program or programs like it being implemented in our schools?
I am unfamiliar with this program- I do not believe it is being used in Alpine District.
What ways can we support diversity in our curriculum so that all students see themselves as culturally relevant?
We need to do better in helping our marginalized students see themselves as culturally relevant. It is possible to find materials that can do this for them. Schools should actively seek to represent different viewpoints and cultures in their instructional materials, and to share a wide variety of experiences and ideas to students. I would love to hear ideas from our minority communities about how we can better support their needs.
What have you personally done to support teachers/public education?
I LOVE to support schools. I have been heavily involved in public schools for nearly 20 years. I have been a weekly volunteer in my children’s classrooms while they were in elementary school. I have served on the School Community Councils at three different schools for multiple terms at each. I have volunteered on several PTA boards. I have frequently offered to assist when parental help is needed- including being a booster president for multiple groups, chaperoning field trips, taking work home to complete for teachers, providing meals and other items when needed. I also share information with parents, teachers, and community members by posting regularly on my social media platforms. In 2014, I started attending nearly all the Alpine School Board meetings, and I published detailed notes about those meetings on multiple social media pages and on a personal blog so that community members would be aware of what was happening at board meetings. I have been an advocate for parents, teachers, and students at the district level. Now that I am serving on the ASD Board, I frequently visit the schools I represent to talk to teachers and patrons about the needs at their schools
How will you show your commitment to public education outside of your role as an elected official?
I think that one of the best ways we can show support and commitment to public education is by sharing positive stories and interactions we have in our schools, and by supporting our teachers, staff, students, and parents. There are so many incredible things happening in our public schools every single day. Sometimes we only hear about the bad things that happened in one class while there are hundreds of other classes that had a wonderful day. We need to share these stories more! We need to invite parents to come and be a part of all the amazing things that are happening. While there is always room for improvement, our dedicated and amazing teachers and staff members are making magic happen in classrooms all over the state every day. I am grateful for them and look forward to continuing to support them as much as I can.