Republican Frank Antenori is facing Republican David Gowan and Democrat Andrea Dalessandro in the race for two House seats in Legislative District 30. We asked him some questions on education.
Should the AIMS test remain a requirement for high-school graduation?
You have to have some sort of benchmark. If you leave it to the subjectivity of the teacher, you are going to have such a wide standard range and it’s not going to be fun. You’ve got to have a statewide objective resource to measure performance, so you know which schools are cutting the mustard and which aren’t. That’s why I like the Regents Exam. There are just some kids that can’t pass the AIMS. They spent twelve years in school, got decent grades, are hard-working kids, and they have an aptitude issue or an inability to take tests-–there are various reasons. I believe they should be given a diploma. But there should be some credit for kids that are able to pass a standardized test that demonstrates their aptitude across the board. That’s where I think a Regents type exam where you have two diplomas, a standard diploma and Regents diploma, should be looked at.
Do you favor any changes for the AIMS test?
It should always be changed. You look at what they do with the SAT and the ACT; they change them every year. There’s a committee that evaluates societal norms, cultural changes and scientific changes. There’s always a requirement to change the test and update the test. I think it should have an annual review of educators and professors and professionals to determine the test is fair, equitable and up-to-date.
Do you support state-funded vouchers for private or religious schools?
I don’t favor them for religious schools, because I fear them being abused. You open the door to…all these crazy schools. You open the door to all these schools like that one sect of Mormons…And you just get nervous. I believe in public schools vouchers, to include charter schools and private schools that are not religious. I know that the Christian Right is going to be pissed off at me, but the reality of it is that you can’t open that door. People will start claiming that this is my religion and that’s my religion and they are going to start sucking people into these cult-like schools. They aren’t going to have any ability to moderate curriculum or make sure that the kids are getting what they need to be getting. Any school that meets state curriculum requirements, a parent should be able to take their child to any school. I would love to tell every parent the state spends $8,500 to $9,000 per kid a year. I would love to give each parent, if they had two kids, two vouchers to go to any school in the state. If the school costs $12,000, you pay the $3,000 out of pocket. With that voucher, I think there should be a small voucher to cover transportation costs.
Does the state need to spend more on school construction?
No, I think the state needs to get out of the school construction business. I think that’s a local issue. TUSD had a 9 percent decrease in enrollment. They are under-utilizing a lot of their facilities. I think they should sell those facilities and reallocate the money to schools in other districts. In lieu of that, I think local bonding measures are the way to go. The school districts should have their own individual taxes. The legislature should ensure that what occurs is some sort of equitable system that is based on per capita population in the school district, not on property value. If there are certain districts that are under-funded because they don’t have the tax base to do that, the state should step in with grants. This bonding thing is a gimmick for running a state deficit. It’s against the Constitution.
Should school constructions funds come form the general fund or would you prefer a new revenue source for school construction?
It should not come from the general fund, but instead, a local source. It should be funded through these growing communities, either with a rough tax or a local developer. If you tell a developer, for every 1,000 houses you put in, you put in an elementary school. For every 10,000 houses you put in, you put in a high school. That’s the way to do it. You don’t spread that burden to the growth and development of a community to a community that has already gone through this already and paid for their community. Communities will then tailor school to meet the needs of the community instead of getting these prison-style looking schools.
Do you support borrowing money to pay for school construction?
Absolutely not, the Constitution forbids it. The maximum deficit you can run, according to the Arizona Constitution, is $350,000. That allows a fudge factor. The Constitution says you can go either way and have a $350,000 surplus or a $350,000 deficit. What the governor did by bonding out $2 billion was illegal. I hope that somebody sues her.
Do you support merit pay for teachers?
How would you determine how merit pay was awarded?
You don’t do it off a net performance system; you do it off a benchmark performance system. At the beginning of the year you evaluate the level of the students when they come into the classroom and then you have a benchmark test at the end of the year and you determine the difference. If a certain teacher shows that her students have a more dramatic improvement then the teacher next door, that teacher should get more pay.
Do you support sex-ed programs that include information on abstinence, contraception and HIV/STD prevention?
I do. I’m not against it. I think we overemphasize it. I went through a health studies class in school and they taught that. You know, the boys went and saw this film and the girls went and saw that film. Then the teacher talked about various related health issues. I think that needs to be taught. Abstinence in itself is not the answer and standard sex-education with the contraceptive approach is not the answer. Two years ago, we were at the U of A, and we were having a debate out there. One of the college organizations was putting it on and a girl in the audience asked that same question. Now I’m Catholic and to Catholics it’s all abstinence. In high school, I was a jock and had girlfriends and stuff. My dad knew this and one night he told me: “Listen to me; if you do anything stupid and get some girl knocked up, that’s it, you’re out of here. So, wrap that weasel if anything.” There is such a thing as common sense. My dad, even though he was Catholic, he knew that his 17-year-old son was a hormone-driven idiot. My old man knew this and he straightened me out. I said this same logic should apply across the board. You tell kids that the best way to avoid sexual diseases and pregnancy is abstinence. If you ever get into the situation where you are unable to overcome those urges, then you should practice some kind of safe sex using contraceptives.