Senate District 16 candidates spar over education - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Senate District 16 candidates spar over education

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Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2014 2:00 pm | Updated: 1:48 pm, Mon Jul 28, 2014.

The two Republican candidates facing off in the state Senate District 16 primary discussed topics ranging from job growth to education funding during a forum hosted by the East Valley Tribune on July 9.

Current state Sen. David Farnsworth, who was selected in 2013 to serve the rest of Rich Crandall’s term, is running against Taylor McArthur to represent the district that covers much of Mesa and into Apache Junction. The winner of the Aug. 26 primary will advance to face Democrat Scott Prior in the Nov. 4 general election.

Farnsworth, who served in the Legislature in the ’90s, said he’s running to retain his seat because of issues he said are facing the state and beyond. “I think our country and our state have major problems on all levels,” he said.

McArthur, who works at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce as its director of events, said his motivation is ensuring the future is strong for future generations, and cited a need to work on the economy.

While he said Arizona is projected to be among the top states in the country in terms of job growth in coming years, ensuring that happens requires a reduction in government regulations, a reduction in taxes and the input from people capable of incubating economic growth.

“We need people with the right background and experience, and I have that background and experience,” he said.

Farnsworth agreed with McArthur about the need to reduce government regulations, and said the economic recovery could have gone faster if entrepreneurs weren’t shackled by them.

The candidates also addressed issues tied to Common Core standards school districts across the state now follow. The standards, however, have become a point of contention in Arizona politics, and Arizona even backed out of taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam, which several states use to measure standards.

Farnsworth said standards like Common Core force teachers to focus on teaching to exams, and he said he doubts the system has improved teaching skills since its implementation.

“I’ve always thought the type of system we’ve used has failed time after time,” he said.

McArthur, however, said the state needs to hold students to high standards and has to have a method to measure student achievement. He said using a data system to measure student achievement can also hold teachers and administrators accountable for their efforts, which could result in improving the quality of the state’s teachers.

“We know better teachers yield better results,” he said.

The candidates had similar views on education funding and options in the state. Both were in support of school options like public, private and charters, and said finding the funding for education is tricky. Farnsworth said Arizona needs to ensure school funding is going directly to the classroom and not to administrative salaries, and McArthur said the state needs to consider new methods of educating students.

The forum became testy when Farnsworth brought up the difference concerning how far right the candidates lean, with Farnsworth saying he is the more conservative candidate. McArthur responded by saying Farnsworth focuses too much on fringe issues like a proposal to end the ban on people raising poultry in their backyards.

Farnsworth and McArthur also conflicted on whether the state should raise the salary of legislators. Voters will have the option to increase legislative salaries from $24,000 to $35,000 in November.

They agreed the people who run for office do so regardless of the salary, Farnsworth said a suggestion by McArthur to reduce the session to 100 days was a bad and unrealistic idea due to the nature of the job.

The forum concluded with a few final thoughts from the two candidates. McArthur said he could help move the state in a positive direction and mentioned jobs, education and safe neighborhoods as areas of importance.

“I hope I’ll have your vote, I hope I’ll have your support,” he said.

Farnsworth said an additional motivation for running was because of what he considered an overreach by the federal government. He added he would like to repeal the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allows voters to elect senators instead of being elected by state legislatures. He also expressed an interest in eliminating the income tax.

“I think it’s a repressive tax,” he said.

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