Editor’s note: With numerous forums for the six school board candidates, the Courier will focus each story on one single issue that arises in each debate. Click on “Politics” under the “News” tab for candidate profiles and for coverage from previous forums.
Jeffco school board candidates shared their views on education vouchers during a debate at Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lakewood on Oct. 10.
Educational vouchers would provide parents the per-student portion of government funding that would otherwise go to a public school, which then could be used to send a child to a private institution or for home schooling.
Nearly 75 people attended the forum, which was hosted by the Lakewood chapter of the American Association of University Women and moderated by Amy Blackwell.
The question, “Would you pledge to not support vouchers?” came toward the end of the debate and was asked by an audience member.
The election is Nov. 5.
“There are not a lot of topics that I will take an absolute pledge on, but vouchers is one of them,” Lamontagne said. “I would take a pledge to not support vouchers. Public tax dollars should be used in schools that are accountable to the public.”
Lamontagne said he supports private schools and that both his parents attended private institutions.
“Because we have such great choices in Jefferson County, it’s not something that needs to be explored,” he said.
“I feel all options should be on the table,” Williams said. “As long as we have long waiting lines at many of our charter and choice schools in the district, I think that we need to keep our minds open.”
Williams said her neighbors took their daughter out of a Jeffco school because of bullying. The girl was placed in a private school.
“If the district did things differently and they were able to deal with the bully and take care of those issues, and give this child a great education — there wouldn’t be any reason for that,” Williams said.
“I do feel comfortable taking a pledge to not support vouchers for Jefferson County,” Aultman-Bettridge said.
She said Jeffco has many great options for alternative schools.
“(But) we need to be accountable to taxpayers and not move any of those resources away from our public institutions,” she said.
“When I look at the voucher option, it’s something that I honestly don’t even see coming up in my four- to eight-year tenure,” Newkirk said. “(But) it’s not something that I’m going to just take a look at and rubber-stamp ‘no’ or rubber-stamp ‘yes’ on something.”
Newkirk said wasn’t comfortable making a pledge for or against any issue, including vouchers. He said Jeffco has many great options for parents, including charter and online schools.
“As long as those are valid options in Jefferson County, I don’t see vouchers ever coming up,” Newkirk said.
“I don’t see that vouchers solve problems in public schools,” Witt said. “I’m running for a public school board. My focus will be on public education.”
Witt said the big issue behind vouchers is parents having choice in their children’s education.
“I pledge to make certain that we have choice in Jefferson County in education,” he said. “So that parents can find the programs that allow their children, that allow our children, to engage and get involved in the best way.”
Gordon Van de Water
“I believe that public tax dollars should remain in the public system,” Van de Water said. “I do support choice within the public system, and I am glad to know that Jeffco has a wide variety of choices now. We should continue and expand those choices where we can.”
Van de Water said his brother was the headmaster of a private secondary school and has heard many stories about the benefits of private education.
“(Private schooling) is a perfectly fine choice for a parent, but with that choice comes the responsibility to foot the bill,” he said. “I do not want to see public tax dollars supporting that choice.”
The last Jeffco school board candidate forum is at 10 a.m. Oct. 19 at the Arvada Community Food Bank, 8555 W. 57th Ave.
Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1043. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports.