Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Meeting With Dan Liljenquist

Tonight I attended a "Meet the Candidate" event at Woods Cross City Hall for Dan Liljenquist who is one of the Republican candidates running for Utah State Senate District 23. I must admit that I was impressed with what he had to say. I didn't agree with his position on everything, however, I felt like his position on several items matched my feelings.

He was asked how the state can make sure the money that is given to education actually makes it to the classroom. He said that he would like to see a push for mandatory audits of money that is given to the school districts. He stated that it is possible that the money is being used for legitimate needs, but, the problem is that we just don't know where the money is going.

He also feels that campaign contributions should be used only for campaign purposes. I previously posted that I felt Mr. Liljenquist would not likely vote for ethics reform. I'd like to reverse that position at this time. I no longer feel like Dan Liljenquist is trying to buy a seat in the Utah State Senate. After hearing his thoughts on ethics in the State Senate, I feel that Mr. Liljenquist will be a positive influence for ethics changes. He stated that he feels the Senate should open their caucuses the same way that the Republicans in the Utah House of Representatives have.

Dan also said things about government being local first that really resonated with me. At the meeting tonight, I stated that Ron Mortensen's group, Citizens for Tax Fairness, was publicly opposed to the South Davis Recreation Center. I then asked Dan what his position is on cities coming together to spend tax dollars on things such as the South Davis Recreation Center. He said that he felt like his opinion on that doesn't matter because he doesn't feel that is a state issue. He feels like the state shouldn't be telling cities that they can or cannot come together on things like that. He said it's a city issue and the decision should be made by the city council. He likened the things that the state legislature, county commissions, and city councils, should be doing are like firing lanes. It's when the legislature starts crossing those firing lanes that it messes things up. He said that the sovereignty that states enjoy should be passed on to the cities as well.

All in all, I was very impressed with what Dan Liljenquist had to say. Based on that and the fact that I haven't heard any response at all from Ron Mortensen in regards to my e-mailed questions, I will be voting for Dan in the Republican Primary election.


Tom said...

"He was asked how the state can make sure the money that is given to education actually makes it to the classroom."

There's a rather large assumption in that question that I'm not sure I agree with--and the candidate seems to accept it. I think that speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

Mortensen is a proponent of a scheme to shift property taxes from retirees to young families.

This is reason enough not to vote for Mortensen.

Thad said...

Tom, You'll notice that two sentences later I say, "He stated that it is possible that the money is being used for legitimate needs, but, the problem is that we just don't know where the money is going." There was not an assumption that the money was being used for wrong purposes.

I think you mean that the assumption is that the money isn't making it to the classroom. I know in the past, teachers lobbying on the hill have said that the money needs to make it to the classroom. That would insinuate to me that those teachers believe the money isn't making it to the classroom. Can we not trust our teachers who are actually IN the classroom?

So Tom, being a member of the Utah Board of Education, do you believe that the majority of the money IS making it to the classroom? If so, then I guess you and I will have to agree to disagree.

Tom said...

It's misdirection to suggest we don't know where the money is going. School district budgets are public information. National organizations track it successfully. If legislators suspect dollars are not being spent appropriately, they can (and do) task the Legislative Auditor General to take a look.

The major national organizations that track this data (such as the National Center for Education Statistics) agree that Utah does extremely well in the portion of its education dollars that make it to the classroom. Where organizations vary is in defining what "the classroom" means. Does it include library services and computer labs? What about paraeducators? Most don't include counseling services as "in the classroom," but research shows a strong counseling program is key to reducing dropouts and helping to close the achievement gap. My point here is that when accepting data from any organization, it's essential to understand what the data represents.

To look at the question from the other side, when administration dollars (meaning the work of the district office) are calculated as a percentage of school funding, Utah continues to comes across looking lean in comparison to most states.

A good link at NCES that would be a springboard for further study is