National Education Association Questionnaire, with my annotated responses.


(These answers are my own – not prepared by a paid staffer.)

Submitted July 5th, 2016

Questions – (please see explanations attached)

Do you support requiring each state, as a condition of receiving federal ESEA funds, to submit a plan outlining how—over a period of years—it will remedy disparities in educational tools, services, opportunities, and resources among districts and schools? _XX__yes _____no

While no response is required for your survey for this question, I am against forwarding any Federal Funds without direction or planning attached to them (especially after watching how NJ has handled such funds) – either downhill from the Federal level, or established as a matter of self-rule at the State level.  Education is of equal importance in all our States, and all of our young children deserve an equal opportunity to attain a thorough education.  SO, in short – “Yes”

Will you support an appropriation bill that prioritizes federal education funds for critical formula grant programs, specifically Title I? __XX_yes _____no

While Title I has several “holes” in it that I would see remedied,” imperfect action is always better than perfect inaction”.  Again, in short, “Yes”.

Will you support an appropriation bill that prioritizes federal education funds for critical formula grant programs, specifically IDEA? _XX__yes _____no

Education, the care of our Seniors, and care of our Veterans, are three pillars of our campaign platform.  Books before Bailouts.  “Yes”.

4  Would you vote for mandatory full funding at the promised 40 percent level for IDEA? __XX_yes _____no

Why only 40%?  I would believe that special education needs being met should be a requirement of the language of the ADA, and I don’t believe in “unfunded mandates”.  Call it “Yes” – but with conditions.

When determining how education dollars are allocated in the federal budget, would you support significantly curtailing the use of competitive grants, which often require states to alter their education policies? __XX_yes _____no

Performance-based funding is viewed by some as departing from the “participation trophy” philosophy.  Establishing performance goals without reward is like management without leadership.  However, a standard set of goals is preferable to unspecified performance.  The trouble has lain in the assessment of performance of teachers by the abilities demonstrated by their students.  A poor teacher who has intellectually advantaged students in a community where parental involvement is at a higher than average level might APPEAR to be doing a better job than a teacher of children who have come from a disadvantaged system, disadvantaged homes, and parental involvement limited by the financial concerns of the parents and their obligations outside the home.  In short, we’re only competing with ourselves, and a failure at the administrative level, such as happened here in NJ thanks to Brett Schundler, only remedied at the last minute by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, could cause undue harm to the students in a given State.

6          Would you support legislation that establishes a new federal-state partnership to help fund high-quality prekindergarten for all children from low- and moderate-income families? __XX___yes _____no

So-called “Abbott Districts”, tried in NJ, have been, by and large, a failure, because it establishes minimum effort/minimum achievement, and fails often to meet either metric.  A truly comprehensive curriculum might make the programs more effective, but the targeting of individual benchmarks, and teaching children individually, must remain in the hands of the instructors.  Perhaps it would be better if performance standards were established in “LICENSING” such facilities as are privately run, so that prepping children for entry into public school happens with consistency.  Did “Abbot Districts” fail due to concept or execution?  More of the latter, I believe.  If a plan were proposed that promised accountability, I would be open to supporting it.

Do you support providing at least the current level of benefits for children under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)? __XX__yes _____no

Absolutely – in fact, I would see availability of and access to Vision/Hearing/Dental care increased.

Do you support ensuring rigorous nutrition standards for meals and snacks? __XX__yes _____no

Palatable food on a budget is something considered in every school.  Dietary needs should be determined by a trained dietician, not an actuary.

Do you support technical assistance and adequate funding for improved and/or necessary kitchen infrastructure and equipment? _XX___yes _____no

No unfunded mandates – if we would require compliance, we must make it available, whether it be through funding or direction.  If we mandate dietary guidelines, we must make reaching those guidelines achievable.

10  Do you support training for all school nutrition personnel to sustain a highly-skilled, professional workforce through provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and other federal nutrition policies? __XX_yes _____no

I find it astonishing that this would not be the desired norm.  Additionally, I certainly agree with expanding meals programs and summer programs…there are children in certain communities whose only opportunity for a good meal comes at school.   Last day of school = last good lunch until September.

11  Do you support providing incentives—through federal policy—for teacher preparation programs to include comprehensive “residencies” in which accomplished teachers provide guidance to new teachers to ensure that knowledge gained from coursework is also rooted in classroom practice? __XX_yes _____no

My daughter recently completed her education degrees (Magna cum Laude)at Rowan with rigorous student teaching requirements.  Forgive me, but I presumed such was the standard of excellence expected elsewhere.

I believe that these programs are critical for the development of quality educators, but I believe that the funding for such is part of the cost of the education received.

I do believe a Federal subsidy of stipends for mentorship is in order.

To encourage later excellence, funding of honoraria for curriculum development, if it can be maintained as a reward for fair assessment rather than as a political hand-out, would be a great way of encouraging excellence in mentoring programs.  Rewarding HQT (High Quality Teachers) financially as an incentive is deserved…although most teachers I know who would qualify due to their excellence at their position aren’t necessarily teaching to earn a salary and pension.  (those who “phone it in”, however…well, I suppose it’s like government, after all.)  That’s not to say “merit pay”, because, again, there is too much potential for politics to play a hand in such.

12  Do you support requiring classroom-based performance assessments for all teacher candidates—before they are given the responsibility for a classroom—to ensure they possess both the skills and knowledge needed for classroom instruction? _XX__yes _____no

The student teaching experience is critical in the development of aspiring teachers.  Provisional Teacher Standards, providing for alternative routes to certification, should be an added feature in the licensing and assessment of teachers.  There are many vacancies in Mathematics and Science teaching that could be filled were there to be a more accessible process, but these “provisional” teachers should be subject to the same assessments and eventual educational requirements.

13  Do you support educator certification programs, such as that provided by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which offer valuable professional development and high standards for educators to further their practice? __XX_yes _____no

“The enemy of excellence is “good enough” – Stephen Covey.  I not only SUPPORT accreditation and continuing education, I would see standard requirements put in place at the Federal Level.  I believe that alternative-route certifications have their place, but only in the absence of available certified teacher candidates.

14  Do you support providing incentives—through federal policy—for teacher preparation programs to emphasize recruiting and retaining candidates from under-represented groups to reflect the growing diversity of our student population? _____yes __XX_no

Diversity as a goal is socially admirable, but the BEST TEACHER is who should be in front of the students – not someone who hits certain social metrics.  I believe that such practices unnecessarily strengthen and sharpen the divisions in our Nation, and justify such divisions in the eyes of our children.

15  Do you support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans, protection of family unity, and the DREAM Act? __XX__yes _____no

I really enjoyed reading the phrase “aspiring Americans” – how better to phrase such?  I would see our PRESENT laws enforced – and that there be a clearly defined pathway for citizenship – and, further,  that such a pathway would require the active participation of the parents and the children in documentation.  This is an issue that strikes close to home for me personally – as much of my family are descended from recent immigrants (within the last several generations), and each generation has had different standards to meet.  Protecting children, especially those born here, regardless of their parentage, will be a priority of mine.

16  Would you support legislation reducing the number of federally-mandated, high-stakes standardized tests? _XX__yes _____no

I have seen direct evidence that excessive testing occurs because of incentives passed to decision-makers.  I would support a reduction in the frequency of testing, and intend to review the policies presently in place in my district, in cooperation with educators and parents, to insure that decisions made in the past were done so in the best interests of the students, and not for any “other” reasons.

17  Within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), do you support an accountability system that continues to count student outcomes but also includes student support and school success indicators – things like access to advanced courses, school counselors, fine arts, and health and wellness programs – and to ensure states report and act to close opportunity gaps that are identified?  _XX_ yes  ____ no

“Elegant” and “Unnecessarily Complex” are two very different terms used in engineering to describe solutions to a posed problem.  I believe that each layer of “exception” in modeling performance provides an opportunity for a wrong decision or an incorrect interpretation.   ESEA’s accountability goals should be based on improvement of the student’s performance within their abilities, as encouraged by the teachers and the school’s execution of a curriculum plan.

18  Within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), do you support requiring the use of multiple measures to evaluate student and school performance? _XX__yes _____no

I would have framed the question less ambiguously, so I am not agreeing yet without specification of those “measures” by which performance is quantified, but using a single testing “system”, tied to a single set of curriculum materials, is unlikely to produce accurate results.  “Teaching to the Test” has been made a priority, and the students see this.  It diminishes the importance of learning, rather than parroting.

19  Do you support federal mandates that base teachers’ evaluations on students’ scores on     standardized tests? _____yes __XX_no

Absolutely not.

20     Charter schools are publicly funded, yet not all federal requirements apply to them. Do you support holding charter schools, including online charter schools, to the same standards of transparency and accountability as all other public schools? __XX_yes _____no

I absolutely believe that Charter Schools must, to own the appellation “School”, meet all the Federal and State Guidelines that public schools must before they can receive even a single dollar from Federal Programs or State/County/Local tax dollars – guidelines including teacher qualifications, performance metrics, and ADA/Mainstreaming.

20     Do you support federal private school voucher and tuition tax credit programs, including demonstration or pilot projects? _____yes __XX_no

I do NOT SUPPORT VOUCHERS that draw from Public School Dollars.

21     Would you support legislation to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to at least $12.00 per hour by 2020, and tie future wage increases to median wage growth on an annual basis? _XX_ yes ____ no

Yes, I support an increase in the minimum wage, but I warn that this must not be done “in a vacuum”.  Efforts to solidify, protect, and defend the dollar must be enacted, as well, or we’re merely “running in place”.

23  Would you support legislation allowing federal student loans to be refinanced—like mortgages—when interest rates decline? _XX__yes _____no

Support it?  I intend to PROPOSE IT.  Reform of Student Loan financing is a priority in our campaign – including access to lower rates via a pooling of reserve dollars made available for direct lending through the government, with investment in “Education Bonds” as a potential investment vehicle – offering a 2% yield over the rate charged, and making the Federal Government responsible only for the “SPREAD”.  Incentivizing saving and participation in the plan. Yes, it is an expense, but we’re nationalizing private debt in this way – and the cost of such a program would return those same dollars to the economy as spent by the students from their earnings – rather than funneled into low-yield investments that are “fee-ed to death” by plan administrators.

24  Do you support expanding federal loan forgiveness programs for those who choose public service careers—specifically, educators? _XX__yes _____no

Student Loan Forgiveness in exchange for public service – in education and other fields – is something I would see further explored and implemented – especially in light of the laws of unintended consequences with respect to a sudden sharp rise in minimum wages that eclipses the earnings of recent graduates living with the burden of the cost of their educations.  Raising the minimum wage “in a vacuum” will create certain problems, and among them are contractually obligated teachers whose income will not be increased, but who will still carry significant student loan debt – effectively rendering them by-passed by any wage legislation.

25  Which of the following approaches to Pell Grant awards would you support?

_XX_ Increase to keep pace with inflation

____ Maintain the current maximum of $5,730 per student per year

____ Decrease

Pell Grants should be indexed to inflation – and, further, so should any allowance for tuition increases by institutes of higher learning as a condition of their accreditation..  Again, balance.

26     Do you believe all public education employees should have the right to bargain collectively? __XX_yes _____no

Collective bargaining falls under right of assembly and rights of speech, so I am fully in support of unions.

27  Will you work to repeal the taxation of employer-sponsored health insurance?

__XX_yes _____no


I would not see benefits taxed as income at all…especially when those benefits are “mandatory” through other legislation, making them effectively a tax, already.

28  Do you support eliminating or reforming the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision? __XX_yes _____no

I view that program as a “claw-back” of funds already paid in “post tax”, and, as such, I do NOT support the present scheme, and will work to eliminate this “penalty”.

29  Do you support raising the Social Security payroll tax cap? _XX*_yes _____no

I want the cap ELIMINATED – it is a specific provision of my platform, and I will PROPOSE such.

30  Do you support converting Medicare to a voucher system? _____yes __XX_no

No, with an explanation.   I believe we have a better solution.  It is my belief that we have three bureaucracies for addressing a single public issue – Health Care for ALL – and that the consolidation of those bureaucracies should be a priority.  At that point, a voucher system becomes unnecessary – single payer, however, does not necessarily mean “Single investor” – and pooling of risk will drive new markets.

31  Do you support providing at least the current level of benefits for Medicare recipients?

_____yes _____no


Yes – and I would see them increased – specifically with respect to Prescription Drug benefits…the “hole in the donut” is a lot of nothing, after all.

32  Would you support legislation to update Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to ensure voter protection and access by requiring preclearance of proposed voting laws in those jurisdictions that have arecent record of violations of voting rights and disenfranchisement? _XX__yes _____no

Voting Rights Act of 1965 makes a presumption that voter suppression and other violations are primarily race-based.  While this may be true, a safe and uniformly reproducible recording of voting records is of at least as great a priority.  The tampering that has been discovered in many cases around the Nation – including right here in NJ – and not only in so-called “targeted” communities.  I feel that EVERYONE’S vote is sacred, and all should be protected.

33  Would you support a constitutional amendment enabling Congress to regulate and limit federal political campaign contributions and expenditures? _____yes __XX_no

An amendment?  No.  This is because any amendment limiting speech, political or otherwise, weakens the First Amendment.  We actually are offering in our campaign a non-justiciable solution to the hated “Citizens United v FEC” decision.  Called the “Change the Rules” pledge, we expect little participation from the existing Congress, but it will certainly be a direct measure of the willingness of those seated to address campaign finance reform.  IN short, a Constitutional Amendment would conflict directly with the First Amendment, so we have developed a way of thwarting such without sacrificing our present freedoms.  There is a smarter approach…I think you’ll like it.   An amendment that limits First Amendment Rights to speech would necessarily negatively affect rights of assembly, as well (such as collective bargaining).  Be careful what you wish for.  Our proposal does not require an amendment.  There are other activities we are part of that will further limit and weaken the negative aspects of “corporate personhood”.  I will explain in due time.

REGULATION?  Absolutely.  An Amendment?  Show me language that doesn’t undermine the Constitution, and I’ll bite.

Essay Questions:

1.       Please describe your top five priorities for public education and how they contribute to ensuring all students attend a great public school.

The following five are some of (and certainly not ALL of) my concerns for public education and funding if the same.

1)      Creation of a set of achievable curriculum standards that allows teachers to select an appropriate and customizable learning pathway for the individual student.  A one-size-fits-all approach, as in the failing “No Child Left Behind”, stifles excellence.  IF students are raised to value their education, not just their participation in a system of tasks to be completed, they will choose to excel.  Students should be led – not “managed”.

Those standards should in no way be biased toward a single learning “system” of text books, software, and supporting materials.

Cultivating a lifelong love of learning should be the premier goal of the early years of public education.

2)     Provision for greater access to educational opportunities – on-line resources, availability of text-books and assignments on-line.  Further, no 60 lb 5th grader should be hauling home a 30 lb back-pack.  Digital versions of text books should be available as part of the individual licensing of text books from the provider.

As a furtherance of this, parental tutorials should also be made available.

3)     Go back to basics – teaching HISTORY in addition to “Social Studies” – with a strong emphasis on our Nation’s core values, and teaching MATHEMATICS “long-hand”, without calculators.  The foundations for critical thinking in adult life are found here.

4)     Arts/Music/Industrial Arts programs and earlier participation in foreign language programs –  to make individuals more well-rounded members of society as adults, and to enrich their learning experiences to more than the three “R”s.  We’re educating children, not drones.

5)     Promotion of Physical Education/Health/Nutrition in our public schools (and even penmanship – for fine-motor development) to develop better overall physical and mental health.

2.       Traditionally, the federal government’s role in public education has been aimed at ensuring equal access for students most in need, including students in high-poverty schools, students with disabilities, and English language learners. As a Member of Congress, what specific steps would you take to close opportunity and resource gaps to ensure educational equity for all students regardless of their background?

Stop the pillaging public schools for the benefit of private charters, and hold charters to the same standards as the public schools in both curriculum requirement, mainstreaming, performance testing, and teacher qualifications.

Perhaps the greatest “gaps” exist in education AFTER the children leave the school for the day.

Expanding educational opportunities for many of these requires the participation, if not, indeed, education, of the parents/caregivers of these children, so closing the gaps will require addressing adult education needs, and PROMOTING availability of such programs.   I am honestly surprised this has not been seen to be of great importance.

My views as described in the survey answers given above should also provide insight into my support of Public Education.

It is my hope that these answers, while not “fully fleshed-out”, provide more than a simple “yes/no” understanding of my present positions.  I learned long ago that no one has a monopoly on the truth.  If there are aspects of these issues you feel I am unaware of, or that I may have not fully understood your questions, please advise me immediately.

Frederick John LaVergne, NJ CD3

3 thoughts on “National Education Association Questionnaire, with my annotated responses.

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