With the general election approaching in November, school board candidates are gearing up to encourage the Monroe County community to think about voting not just in the presidential election but in the school board election as well.
Community members gathered at Monroe County Public Library Auditorium for the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum for school board members in districts 2, 4 and 6.
District candidates included Jim Billingsley and Sue Wanzer for District 2, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer and James Shackelford for District 4, and Lois Sabo-Skelton and Martin Spechler for District 6.
The forum is part of a series of candidate forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters Bloomington-Monroe County chapter, a nonpartisan political organization that encourages active participation in government in the community of Bloomington and Monroe County.
The questions submitted in the forum asked about technology in schools, engagement in learning, particular issues they believed to be most important to the Monroe County Community School Corporation and inclusivity in public education.
The candidates were asked a series of questions submitted by audience members regarding school education policies and resource use provided by the MCCSC.
The duties of the school board members include hiring and firing the superintendent for the MCCSC and working on policies and budgets throughout their term.
The candidates included current school board members Sue Wanzer and Lois Sabo-Skelton, both running for reelection. Community members Ann Heath, Bob Shanks and Mike Walsh asked the candidates the questions submitted from audience members.
All members of the forum were allotted 60 seconds to answer each question and went down the line onstage alphabetically in order to create an equal dialogue.
Jim Billingsley said federal mandates have the most harmful effects on public schools in the state.
“The feds have no authority to have a hand in education. That is left for the state,” Billingsley said in his opening statement. “These include harmful intrusions such as No Child Left Behind and Common Core.”
Sabo-Skelton said the funds needed for special education are only increasing.
Fuentes-Rohwer said kids with special needs are getting the shortest end of the stick, and it’s important to look at where classes can get better resources for teachers in the district to help these children.
“It is definitely an issue that is very important to come together over,” Fuentes-Rohwer said. “And we need to start looking at what’s really happening.”
The division between charter and private schools and public education was debated at length between the candidates.
Fuentes-Rohwer and Sabo-Skelton said they believed privatization of education creates unnecessary competition for learning opportunities.
Lois Sabo-Skelton said the charter and private school movement is the most concerning development in education. Fuentes-Rohwer said charter schools have segregated the community and education opportunity through competition in education.
“No child should be on the losing end of education opportunity.” Fuentes-Rohwer said.
The school board candidates will be on the ballot in the general election this November.
“We the public school, the real public school, take in everyone,” Sabo-Skelton said. “We promote the idea of democracy that we all are equal and should all get equal respect.”