School issues draw sparks at forum
Teachers unions, farm animals and education funding were some of the topics Democrat Dan Robinson and his GOP rival, Rep. Ray Scott, debated Thursday evening.
Speaking to about 40 people at a Grand Valley Young Professionals forum, the two candidates for House District 55 tried to out-do the other in zingers and pithy comebacks.
On funding schools, Robinson criticized Scott for voting to cut K-12 education by $100 million.
“I’m sorry Mr. Robinson doesn’t have the background to understand this, but what it was was per pupil. When we did cuts two years ago it came out to an average of $274 per student,” Scott said. “Some things are going to have to be changed somehow.”
Robinson, who served eight years on the School District 51 board, said there’s no reason to guess on what needs changing.
The School Finance Act that determines how much money each school receives was written in 1994, Robinson said. It’s that law that is the reason why Mesa County schools are on the bottom of the list when it comes to funding.
“We need to make amendments to it to change it so there is an even distribution to folks throughout the state,” Robinson said. “In our state, there are 176 school districts. Mesa County is 174.” Later, Robinson defended teachers unions as necessary to protect workers, while Scott questioned why charter schools that are not unionized have long waiting lists to get in.
“Charter schools, private schools,” Scott said. “What we’re finding is that those are excelling quicker than our public schools. Why is that? There’s something broken in the public education system.”
On animal welfare, Scott, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, said he’s not aware of too many big problems related to the issue, saying animals are protected pretty well already.
That prompted a sharp retort from Robinson.
“This guy sits on the agriculture committee and he has no idea that the number of cases of abuses is up,” Robinson said. “Cases where people are feeding garbage to cattle. If you’re Ray, to be so ignorant about the basic facts. In our county and in Garfield County, we have huge numbers of starving horses. That’s not abuse? Com’on folks.”
Republican Jared Wright and Libertarian Tim Menger also were to debate, but Menger cancelled at the last minute because he had to go to Denver to see his mother, who was admitted into a hospital.
Instead, Wright answered questions of the group on such topics as TABOR, legalizing marijuana and improving the economy.