School board candidates discuss Common Core, collective bargaining

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 | 10:40 p.m. CDT; updated 12:08 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 26, 2014

COLUMBIA — The candidates running for seats on the Columbia School Board discussed the Common Core State Standards, teacher salaries and collective bargaining Tuesday at a forum held by the Columbia NAACP at Second Baptist Church.

Helen Wade, Joseph Toepke, Jonathan Sessions and Paul Cushing are the candidates running for three positions on the Columbia School Board; Wade and Sessions are incumbents. The municipal election will be held April 8.

The following are paraphrases of some of the questions candidates were asked.

What is your stance on Common Core?

All candidates agreed that some sort of tool is needed to measure student and teacher success.

Sessions and Wade supported the Common Core State Standards.

Toepke said he had problems with the standards' implementation timetable, and he was uncomfortable with determining a teacher's worth based on just a snapshot of his or her classroom.

"I don't think that's a fair assessment of what those kids' capabilities are throughout a yearlong duration of schooling," he said.

Cushing believes that the standards would be good, but he believes it would be better to focus more on improvement.

Why is there no tax levy to support teacher salaries?

Sessions and Wade explained that much of the 2012's tax levy went toward digging Columbia Public Schools out of past debts.

No candidate said he or she was against looking at a tax levy for teacher salaries, though, if the state's funding proved insufficient.

Are there any employee rights, working conditions, benefits or other compensation issues that you believe shouldn't be in the scope of bargaining?

All candidates believed that nothing should be off the table when it comes to collective bargaining.

However, Sessions and Wade said policies handled by the School Board, such as bond issues, should not become a bargaining chip.

Supervising editor is Adam Aton.

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