State school board: Bette Arial vows to be ‘outspoken voice’ for education

ST. GEORGE – Among the many campaigns that will come to a head on Nov. 6, is the race for who will represent District 15 – Iron and Washington counties – on the Utah State School Board.

Bette Arial, of St. George, is one of the candidates vying against Barbara Corry for District 15’s seat.

Bette Arial | Photo courtesy of the Bette Arial campaign

A matter of experience

Arial is a former member of the state school board, having served from 1997-2001. Additional experience in the field of education includes being a Dixie State College Trustee and adjunct instructor of dance and dance education, and a member of the PTA.

“I am passionate, devoted, and experienced,” Arial said. “Education needs a strong advocate.”

According to her website, Arial has also been a part of various organizations that include the Arizona Strip Interpretive Association, Utah Humanities Council, Utah Foundation Board, Rotary International, St. George and Cedar City Chambers of Commerce and President of the Celebrity Concert Series.  She also currently works as a senior adviser for the Sutherland Institute.

Barbara Corry, Arial’s opponent, claims 35 years of experience in the sphere of education, having served in various local and state-level capacities. Comparing Arial’s record to her own, Corry said, “She doesn’t know about education.”

However, Arial said her mixed experience works to her advantage.

“I have experience with the greater Salt Lake community,” she said. This is important, she said, because while she served on the state school board originally, the interests of northern Utah tend to outweigh those of Southern Utah. “I have the parents, students and teachers of Southern Utah in mind,” she said.

Members of the state board will also be working with the state legislature on a regular basis. “It’s always important to work with the legislature,” she said. “I have a good, trusting relationship with them.”

Arial said her background would prove beneficial because the board is made up of more than just educators. Members of the board also represent areas of mining and manufacturing; transportation and public utilities; service, trade, and information technology; finance, insurance, and real estate; construction and agriculture. Each industry is considered a stakeholder in Utah’s educational pursuits.

Though many different interests are represented on the board, Arial said, “We need to have the children be our focus.”

Not a special interest supporter

Due to her connection to the Sutherland Institute, a conservative public policy think tank, Arial has been accused of sharing her employer’s support of school vouchers and other special interests.

Though she works for the Institute, she said, “I don’t always agree with them.”

Arial said she didn’t support the vouchers when the issue was originally voted upon, nor does she now. “It’s not the right time for vouchers,” she said. “Utah doesn’t have enough private schools to justify it.”

The state should do more to prop up its public schools and teachers rather than pursue the idea of vouchers, she said

As for charter schools, another issue that has proven controversial in the past, Arial said there should be more collaboration between the schools and the school districts in which they reside. “They should have a place at the table,” she said.

“Parents are saying something” by sending their children to public charter schools, she said. “That shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

Charter schools provide a bit more flexibility in a child’s education, and that same flexibility should be an option in the public schools as well.

One of the objections to public charter schools has been that it takes funding from the public schools. According to the Utah State Office of Education website, funding for the schools is based “on the principle that state funds follow the student. Charter schools also receive appropriate portions of local money from the school districts in which the charter school students reside.”

“We need to find ways we can increase funding to our part of the state,” she said, “and raising taxes isn’t the answer.”

On her Facebook page, Arial wrote: “Each child in District 15 … deserves an excellent, safe and well-funded education. I salute the fine educators who work tirelessly to feed the minds of our children – our future citizens and leaders.”

Why vote for Arial?

“I will be an outspoken voice for our counties,” she said, adding she would be an independent voice on the state board. “I don’t represent a special interest,” she said

Aside from a desire to represent southwestern Utah’s educational needs and seeking better collaboration between civic and educational entities at the state-level, Arial also promotes innovation in the schools.

“Our children are brighter than ever,” she said. The educational needs of children and how they are being taught is changing. If elected, Arial would push for Utah schools to integrate innovative methods of teaching in order to better prepare Utah’s children for the future.

To her detractors, Arial wrote: “We need to come together, there’s too much labeling” in education.

“I wouldn’t run if I didn’t feel I could make a difference,” she said.

Among those endorsing Arial’s bid for the Utah State School Board are Alan Gardner of the Washington County Commission, and Reps. Brad Last, Lowry Snow and various other state legislators.

Published simultaneously with this report is St. George News companion report on candidate Barbara Corry.

Ed. Note: St. George News is a politically neutral publication and does not endorse or support candidates running for the Utah State School Board, or any other local, state or national office.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, 2012, all rights reserved.


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  • deborah crowe October 16, 2012 at 8:20 am

    I’m not quite understanding what she is advocating for? Did you see the salaries our district gets? WOW… the first 75 people on payroll make over 150,000 a year (here is the county right to know list:

    The next 100 make over 100,000 thousand a year.. then its page after page after page of 80 and 90 thousand dollar salaries.. and this is a school district that charges students to attend school.. in Florida, they have a “right to education” law and you are not billed for education.. I hope every student has a

    • Damie October 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      From that rather astounding salary list, it looks like there’s a whole lot of “bleeding the beast” going on using the district as an excuse.

  • deborah crowe October 16, 2012 at 8:26 am

    oh I reread, yes our disabled need more therapies.. like audio integrative training.. in colorado it is law for them to apply that to disabled kids every morning and they do it BECAUSE it works.. (helps autistics and adhds focus)… and every autistic kid should get an IPAD as they are communicating with the aid of these.. and its spontaneous education.. if my son had one, we could be anywhere and could just plug in his schooling site and he could “play/learn”.. taking advantage of every opportunity to teach him.. I think more parents should be taught ABA training our school teachers here helped teach me some of it.. and now my son doesn’t suffer the confusion of being taught one way at school and another way at home.. (he’s home schooled at the moment with the help of two wonderful aids that come once a week to help with support paperwork etc).. I hope she gets in then.. b/c we need someone who knows the most valuable up to date needs…

  • ken October 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Sadly education has become more about how much you can make rather then how well you can educate. School boards across the nation have way too many over paid people. No wonder teachers get paid a pittance.

  • Roy J October 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    The highest salary paid last year to a Utah State Board of Education member was $22,789. It was paid to Mike Jensen. I got this figure by cross referencing the district representatives names from the Utah State Board of Education website with Utah’s Right to Know government salary database, which lists the salaries paid to government employees all the way down to the food service workers and custodians. The current District 15 representative, Debra Roberts, received $22,689. I believe that is the seat these ladies are competing for. I don’t disagree with the commentators regarding administrative salaries, but I thought ken’s post was perhaps aimed too generally in this case. There’s alot of honesty in poverty, which appears (loosely)to me to be what holding this seat amounts to. I’m no expert. Please continue.

  • ken October 20, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Roy I think you better go back to the utahsrightoknow website and try again! Use the drop down menu and look of de3pt of educaion.

  • Roy J October 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Ouch! Biig oops! Thanks, ken! That is sort of a weird website, by the way, considering Debra Roberts has her salary listed twice, and then when you go to check her bigger salary out, it has the other one listed under it. By way of fixing my first, horribly inaccurate post, I am going to tentatively suggest (gasp!) that Larry Shumway is, in fact, the highest paid member of the Utah State Board of Education, weighing in, (if he doesn’t show up somewhere else, too!) at $251, 103. But better check yourself. kowtow…kowtow…

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