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 Steve Handy’s responses that shows that he 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?
All are aware of the increasing challenges of mental and emotional health facing students today. It’s clear that children need additional support that’s sound and reasonable at school. We have too many families that are struggling and may not have enough time or resources to nurture these characteristics with their children. We need to be careful and ensure that the curriculum is well constructed, that teachers and mental health professionals are teaching all SEL-related assistance in a way that is helpful and uplifting. For example, bullying has no place in our schools and classrooms, but we know it happens. All efforts to stamp out bullying should be taken and then when a child has been a victim, school resources in concert with parental guidance, should be undertaken to assist the child and get him or her back to positive mental and emotional health and productivity.
What importance do you attribute to PE and health and how do feel about the cuts made to these subject areas in the past?
As indicated above, I believe that our public education system is today required to teach the whole child. In order to be successful with the rigors of modern living, children need also skills to ensure that both their mental physical health is positive. Children who have opportunities for physical activity, proper nutrition and adequate sleep come to school prepared to tackle academic subjects. PE and health classes give students an opportunity to understand how healthy-eating and physical activity enhances emotional, mental and academic acuity. Regarding cuts…this is regrettable and efforts should be made to ensure that schools will be able to provide a proper balance as previously explained.
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?
As a sitting legislator, I am proud of the additional funding that has come to public education over the past few years. We now automatically fund for growth and the WPU percentages have been steady and strong. Over the past several years over a billion dollars has been added to education funding as Utah’s economy has been strong even throughout the pandemic. Teachers need to be compensated as professionals. Our greatest challenge in more adequately funding public education is the constitutional requirement to direct 100% of income tax, both private and corporate, to public education with some going to higher ed. The smartest minds in Utah must come together and determine the best course going forward because what we have been doing in the past is not enough. In my discussions with the education community, they can see the challenge and are willing to look at the big picture. The recent constitutional amendment that carved off some of the income tax mandate for people with disabilities is helpful, but it’s only a start. My number one priority is education and that includes paying teachers better, but we’ll all need to work together to find a better funding model going forward. Our birth rate is declining somewhat but still leads the nation and we are adding new students each year. The recruitment and retention of teachers is certainly a high priority for me. The 2021 Legislative Session was especially historic with $121 million in teacher bonuses and $127 million in the education rainy day fund and an overall $500 million increase in public education funding!
How do you define CRT and do you believe it is currently being taught in Utah public schools?
Controversial Critical Race Theory has many definitions depending on one’s point of view. From my understanding, CRT critiques how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism perpetuates a racial caste system that relegates people of color to the bottom tiers. This is an academic definition that has been helpful to me. Let me be clear, racism should have no part in our public education system today and when problems occur, they must be dealt with swiftly and with sensitivity. Parents, first and foremost, must teach their children the absolute necessity as Americans to respect each individual regardless of race or religious affiliation for that matter. I do not believe that CRT is taught in Utah’s public education system; there is no curriculum. I voted in favor of the Legislature’s guidance to USBE to formulate fair and equitable policies of inclusion and I believe they have done an admirable job in that regard. We must be vigilant as parents, educators, and policy makers to ensure that only approved curriculum is taught in Utah’s public schools.
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?
My knowledge of this issues comes from the Davis School District and the parent and educator committee they have in place that reviews and approves books and curriculum. I am also aware of an established review process when concerns arise. There is a process in place and ultimately, elected school board members must weigh in and determine what is appropriate. I urge parents with concerns to be respectful and work through the process with civility. I also encourage curriculum directors and school board members to be transparent and understanding when these questions arise.
Considering legislation that has been proposed in the last 10 years, how would you vote on voucher/school choice bills?
I am absolutely not in favor of vouchers. The public has spoken. Vouchers would take money from public education to fund private schools that have no accountability for expenditure of tax dollars. I believe in school choice, however, and feel that with the addition of public charter schools and traditional public schools, that parents have many choices. I also support home school and private education choices. Parents must decide what is best for their child.
What are your views on the Summit program or programs like it being implemented in our schools?
There appear to be many benefits of the Summit program for parents and teachers. The detailed 24/7 access to a student’s progress, assignment completion, and academic status is amazing. I wish my wife and I would have had access to such reports as parents. I especially admire the mentoring program. However, I am aware that this has become an additional burden to many teachers because it is so time consuming to implement. In fact, I have had several teachers express their concerns about Summit to me personally. I don’t want to see a computer program take the place of or interfere with teacher instruction and interaction with students. We must work together to ensure that use of Summit does not derail instruction or weigh down teachers by the burden of implementation.
What ways can we support diversity in our curriculum so that all students see themselves as culturally relevant?
First and foremost, as stated above, discrimination in any form and for any reason has no place in our public schools. Administrators, teachers, school board members and parents must work together to be ever vigilant when a discriminatory practice is flagged or a slur or remark is uttered. The Davis School district where I live and am most-intimately acquainted and where I have been engaged as both a parent and policy maker for years, understands that the population served is becoming more diverse and challenging. I believe that adaptations are being made and addressed. Diverse cultures should be recognized and celebrated. Curriculum materials should reflect the diverse makeup of our classrooms. Utah overall is becoming more diverse and we should embrace the new and differing perspectives this brings to our children. As parents and educators, we must assist children from exhibiting prejudice in any form.
What have you personally done to support teachers/public education?
As, a parent, a siting legislator, and the husband of a career educator, it’s not unusual that we discuss education on a daily basis in our home. I served on the Community Council at Layton High School and as a policy maker, I have pushed for increased education funding. I am regularly invited into classrooms to speak. I have sponsored field trips for elementary 4th graders to visit the capitol and personal escort tours. I am particularly proud of my efforts to obtain funding for clean fuel school buses. More importantly, I have advocated for greater respect for educators at all levels and believe that I am known as a firm friend of education.
How will you show your commitment to public education outside of your role as an elected official?
I celebrate and admire teachers. I have been in numerous schools, have sat in classrooms, have visited with teachers, administrators and school board officials. I listen to their concerns and address them. When teachers come to the Capitol, I respectfully listen to their concerns and seek ways to support and address them. As each legislative session begins, an important and customized report entitled, Teachers Speak Out About Education Issues, is provided. I look forward to reading the comments and understanding what is happening. I believe that the Legislature puts too many burdens on teachers and frequently oversteps its bounds. School grading is just one issue that needs to be repealed; it isn’t working. In looking now at the 2022 report, teachers rank salary increases as their number one priority, which isn’t a surprise but the number two issue is to “reject new initiatives that add to teacher stress.” This is a paramount concern to me. The Legislature and the educator community should not be adversaries. We are all parents. There can be healthy tensions when it comes to budget issues, but respect, admiration, and support must be the over riding concerns. I know they are for me!