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School Board Candidates Discuss Mayor's Race, Charter Schools

Six candidates for two contested seats on the Jefferson County Board of Education met for a debate Monday night.Among the questions asked of the candidates was how they would work with the next mayor. First District challenger Bonnie Lash Freeman said the mayor should be an advocate for schools, and not try to control education."The mayors do not run the schools," she said. "But what they do do is provide supports and dollars in many ways that other people can't provide."First District incumbent Diane Porter praised Mayor Abramson's work with the district and said the next mayor should continue his level of participation."I think it's important in any urban district, the only way we can continue to be successful is to work with city government, Metro Government, and any of the entities that will enhance educational programs," she said."I want to see our community continue to seek opportunities like it sought with the ARRA [stimulus] funds to bring federal money into our community for our school," said First District challenger Attica Scott. Scott also said the mayor should promote achievement and health programs, and steer federal funds to the district.When asked for their thoughts on charter schools, most of the candidates present said they opposed them. Third District incumbent Debbie Wesslund said the district can already accomplish everything charter schools could."We could go in and put new programs, we could give the educations more flexibility to come up with ideas, innovative ways to raise student achievement and empower them to make some changes," she said. "We can already do that."Wesslund's challenger David Toborowsky said he's concerned charter schools would divert too much money from other schools."How do we then backfill that money?" he asked. "And if for some reason, it gets cut, who is going to get cut first? I wouldn't be running for public education, for a school board position if I was supporting the moving of money out of public education."Challenger Daniel Smithson didn't give a clear opinion, but rather listed pros and cons of charter schools.

Gabe Bullard is the director of news and editorial strategy.