As candidates for school board fill out the questionnaire, their responses will appear here. Click a name to read their detailed answers.
Name: Alyson Williams
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/VoteAlysonWilliams/?modal=admin_todo_tour
Race Type: State School Board
State Board Political Party: Republican
State School District #: 13 – Part of Salem, Spanish Fork, Springville, Mapleton, Covered Bridge Canyon, Provo and Southeast Orem
School District & Seat:
What is the purpose of education?
The intent of a publicly funded education is to ensure a people who understand the history and principles of self-government, and who have tools for self-reliance and success with the aim of preserving our Republic. More generally, I love this quote about the purpose of education:
“We are not programming machines. We are teaching children. We are not producing functionaries, factory-like. We are forming the minds and hearts of men and women … to be human beings, honoring what is good and right and cherishing what is beautiful.”
— Anthony Esolen
What is your vision of the future for education in Utah? How do we help families and children get the education they desire?
Short version: Decisions made closest to the student, by those who know them best, are the most effective. One size does not fit all.
I support a return to a stewardship of education, beginning with the self-determination of the individual student, guided by parents interacting with caring mentors and teachers and supported by communities and policy makers. The core accountability should be to the student. This can be contrasted with the two current and competing models that seem to dominate policy discussions about education In Utah. I feel like public education is often caught in a turf war between the social engineers (equal outcomes and progressive ideologies) and the human capitalists (schools as a workforce pipeline). Both seem to view schools and students as a means to a centrally planned end, rather than self-determining individuals.
As a school board member, you will bring to the position your own agenda you have campaigned on. What are the top 3 things you wish to see happen during your time on the board?
3 priorities for education policy:
1. Decisions made closest to the student, by those who know them best, are the most effective. One size does not fit all. This applies to standards, attendance policies, assessment and data collection.
2. Restoring autonomy to teachers and reducing reporting requirements would not only benefit student learning with more focus on instruction, but would also improve teacher retention.
3. The amount of money allocated to education is less important than how much of that funding is actually getting to the classroom. Transparency is lacking. Most grants and earmarks come with compliance costs that are not tracked but should be.
Some organizations believe members should drop all personal agenda’s when elected, how will you resolve any commitments you’ve made to voters during your campaign?
I’ve tried to be as clear as I can about the principles that will guide my votes regardless of what other organizations think. I believe my role as an elected board member is to represent the voters in advocating for these principles and in harmony with the Constitution, which elected officials promise to uphold.
In 2010, Utah adopted the National Common Core Standards and later adopted the national science standards. Since then, numerous data has showed that this was a step backward for education. As a state school board member, will you work to completely replace Common Core standards with something better?
In recent years, Utah has adopted a number of initiatives such as computer adaptive testing through SAGE and Aspire tests. What is your vision for how testing should function in Utah schools?
I oppose a universal test for the purposes of grading schools and teachers. I oppose regular testing that does not usefully inform the teacher and student of progress with context rather than just rankings. I think there are a number of well-devised tests that schools and teachers can use for the purpose of measuring progress and that avoiding a single, national test is also a protection against a national curriculum.
Explain your position on data privacy as it relates to education? Who should have access to student information and under what kind of controls?
Student data privacy is a key area of concern. This could be a really long answer but I will summarize by saying I’m very concerned with the detailed data dossiers being compiled on students under the umbrella of education. Also, we need enforceable data privacy agreements with every tech vendor whose tech is used by students. Utah’s current statute has no teeth. Students should be the owner of their student record (with parents as stewards for minor children) and they should be able to review, edit or challenge incorrect information, and control access to that data. No data should be collected without informed consent and the ability to retract consent. Outside of directory and transcript information, I don’t see it as a proper role for government to maintain a centralized, longitudinal, detailed profile of every student ( or citizen, as the student profile continues into the workforce.)
There is a push to remove Utah’s abstinence-based education and replace it with a Comprehensive Sexuality Education program for K-12. Where do you stand on this issue?
I’m actively opposed to Comprehensive Sexuality education and committed to raising awareness of what that agenda entails. I think many don’t understand the difference between all the different curriculum, often confusing abstinence-based education with abstinence-only for example. If healthy sexual development and physiological and emotional well-being are the goals of a sex ed program, CSE is the opposite of that in my opinion. I also support the right of parents to opt out of any public sex ed program and address that privately.
What role does the federal government play in Utah schools?
I recently looked up the exact percentages of federal funding to my local district. It was less that 5% of our overall funding, and yet, the majority of policy in Utah is driven by the conditions associated with that funding, i.e. standards, assessments, data collection, school turnaround and intervention. I think that is a pretty lopsided contract and I would advocate for moving away from those grants and funding whose compliance costs us more than we get in favor of having the freedom and flexibility to act on what we on the front lines can see our students really need. I have more confidence in local teachers and administrators working with families to address needs and make educated and personalized decisions than in bureaucrats with very limited understanding of true needs.
What is your vision for technology in Utah schools, particularly with the massive cuts coming due to the Covid-19 lockdown actions depleting our resources?
It appears that the conditions for accepting money from the CARES act in response to COVID-19 is very heavily attached to promoting technology. I think technology is a tool, not a solution and I have concerns with blanket funding of tech over specific discussions that would likely vary from district to district about how resources can best be allocated in a shortage. We’ve just completed a kind of pilot of 100% distance learning and the results do not support such a wholesale investment in that model as the primary solution.
The State Board of Education had to recommend cuts to education funding at 2%, 5%, and 10% What would your budget cut priorities be?
I don’t have enough information to make specific recommendations, but I’m seeing that every department is being asked to cut equally at the same percentage where I would favor first determining priorities. When you can’t do everything you need to do the most important things well. While on the surface it might seem more fair to have every department share an equal cut, it seems wiser, if our goal really is student well-being and progress, to prioritize things that most directly impact that. This would require disproportionate cutbacks and would probably be unpopular as a result.
There are many different roles in education. At the state level there are board members, the superintendent and USBE staff. In your opinion what are the differences between these roles?
If functioning as they should, the board are the representatives of the people. The superintendent oversees USBE staff and reports to the board and acts primarily with the oversight and direction of the board.
Utah law recognizes a fundamental liberty interest of parents in the education of their children with schools as a secondary support. As such, should Utah have a criminal compulsory education law? Please explain the reason for your answer.
No. The latter conflicts with the former, which, as legally noted by the term “fundamental” speaks to the foundational role of the family in a thriving society. Utah has made some progress in this area in recent years as they reduced criminal penalties for student absences and by reducing the compliance burden on families that choose educational paths outside of public school. With the incredible number of options for education that exist in a connected world, the concept of using the force of law for one model doesn’t make sense. This kind of discussion often diverges into issues of social services and helping children who need extra support. I think it is important to separate those two objectives in policy in order to achieve better results in both.
What is your relationship to the education establishment in Utah? UEA/USBA/PTA. Have they contributed to your campaign or endorsed you in any way? (if so, how?) What schools, districts, or organization’s do you feel need represention to the state board through your efforts?
I have been a member of my local PTA of and on and am grateful for the involvement of engaged parents in the activities of school. I’m not financially supported or officially endorsed by any of those organizations. While the decisions of the State Board affect all schools throughout the State I do think my proximity and electoral accountability to the people and schools in my district will inform my perspective.