2020 SB Candidate Responses

As candidates for school board fill out the questionnaire, their responses will appear here. Click a name to read their detailed answers.

Name: Brett Garner
Email: brett@brettgarner.org
Website: http://brettgarner.org
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/brettgarnerforstateschoolboard3
Race Type: State School Board
State Board Political Party: Democrat
State School District #: 3
School District & Seat:

What is the purpose of education?

To paraphrase James Brown, education can give people a true view of themselves, and opens the door to future success. With that view, they do not think they need anything else given to them.

What is your vision of the future for education in Utah? How do we help families and children get the education they desire?

I believe that our schools are the vital resource for parents, students, and our broader society. They are the key to our economy and our democracy. I believe the state board of education needs advocates for public education to ensure that taxpayer money is spent wisely and that our students can achieve high standards.
I believe the best way to do that is to increase transparency and accessibility.

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?

Increased visibility and transparency for what the board actually does. There is little knowledge what this vital body does, and that can sometimes lead to poor outcomes or even outright graft.
Securing continued and substantial taxpayer investment in classroom resources. I want to retain our educators and support them with personnel to lessen their administrative burden so they can focus on teaching.
Supporting more equity for all learners. The district I seek to represent is diverse in many ways. Whether it is children with special needs, English language learners, distance learners, or many others, we need to make sure each child is given the opportunity to succeed in the classroom.

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 would not have any agenda for personal, financial, or political enrichment. However, I do have an agenda that I am campaigning on and I intend to see those priorities generally fulfilled. However, I have a commitment to visit every school in my district, as well as meeting with other interested parties whenever possible, to formulate the best approach to policy.

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?

I’d like to do a review of current Utah standards with parental involvement to just improve them.

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 am distressed by the flaws and failures in statewide testing. I believe the board should work the legislature to give teachers more freedom in teaching so that high-stakes testing is altered in a way that educational achievement can be fairly measured.

Explain your position on data privacy as it relates to education? Who should have access to student information and under what kind of controls?

Our privacy practices can always be improved, though they already have significant protections. One area of concern is the use of “free” hardware and software (i.e. Chromebooks) with short-term cost benefits that, either intentionally or not, could endanger student privacy in the long-term. Personally identifiable student data should be available to parents/guardians and the student at every opportunity, and access limited to only those who have direct responsibilities for that student’s education.

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 support adopting age-appropriate, evidence-based, comprehensive sexuality education standards at the state level. I also support give school districts flexibility in adopting curriculum based on those standards. Teachers should be rigorously trained on these standards and curriculum, and the board should encourage additional school medical personnel funding to give clear guidance on positive health outcomes and safe practices. Most of all, though, I support the right of parents to be in charge of their child’s education. It is my hope that all parents take very seriously the responsibilities they have and not simply expect schools to teach everything. But it is clear that some students do not have that supportive parental environment and schools must be part of the solution. Without education playing a party, we will continue to see the increased STI rates we’ve seen in too many of our communities.

What role does the federal government play in Utah schools?

I value the legal protections that IDEA, ESSA, Title IX, FERPA and many other federal laws give to protect the rights of parents and children. However, as the husband and son of educators, I have been exposed to the significant administrative burden some of these laws have placed on teachers, and how that burden sometimes takes away from classroom preparation and student focus. I would encourage our federal delegation to work to find ways to support educators with funded mandates. The board should also set standards, rules, and policy that enables schools to follow these laws without diminishing any student’s normal advancement.

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?

I cannot tell the future, but I can tell that this situation has been chaotic for parents, students, teachers, administrators, and everyone. As a board member, my votes on emergency activities will be guided by the following principles:
Safety–the most important thing we must do is protect the health and well-being of our students, teachers, and their families.
Evidence—our decisions must be based on research and best practices there are available, so that we are not wasting money, putting students even further back, and frustrating parents.
Equity—as many have noted, this crisis has further exposed the inequities present in our education system. While there has been an admirable effort, there is no question that some students have not been able to take advantage of the limited learning opportunities that home-based schooling presented.
Maintaining and increasing education funding—Now is not the time to cut the education budget. While the legislature and governor set the budget, the board must make it clear to them that reductions in funding will reduce our state’s economic recovery and competitiveness.

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 would not encourage any funding cuts at this time. There are too many unknown expenses and we cannot sacrifice our children’s education when we have significant budgetary reserves for just these types of occasions.

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?

The board works for the constituents who elect them. The Superintendent works for the board. The staff work for the superintendent with the guidance 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.

This does seem to be a legislative solution, not a board action. However, I believe parents, if assuming educational responsibilities for their children, should be free to do so but the State Board should work to ensure that parents understand the significant burden this entails. I believe much of the chaos and confusion that has come since the soft dismissal in spring 2020 is due to lack of guidance from the board. I don’t blame them for not expecting a pandemic, but as I will represent areas with significant distance learning challenges already, I believe there is a need for more leadership in this area. If elected, I will work with the board to strengthen distance learning options, as well as providing detailed documentation for parents who wish to continue home-schooling. Parents do need to know that home learning environments still require significant investments in time, resources, and effort. The Board can help parents in their decision-making, and assist districts and charters in adapting to special circumstances while maintaining the quality of in-class instruction.

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 not received any endorsements or contributions as of now, but I have sought the UEA’s endorsement and would not decline a USBA or PTA endorsement. However, I expect organizational endorsements to be rarer now that the Board races are partisan. Additionally, my wife serves as a secondary Uniserv representative.
I believe these organizations have the best interests of students and teachers at heart. However, I will work with any organization that brings evidence-based policy proposals to the Board, as well as listen to any parents, students, or constituents who seek to improve educational outcomes and preserve scarce taxpayer funding.

Protecting Our Children