District 30 House Seat B, Neal vs. Horman

An East Idaho attorney wants to replace Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, in the May 17 primary.

Randy Neal of Idaho Falls said a “wide set” of issues resulted in his bid for the District 30 legislative spot.

“I want to get back into public service and help,” said Neal, who calls himself a conservative Republican who supports lower taxes and “restraining the size of government and spending.”

District 30 House Seat B challenger Randy Neal
Randy Neal

Neal pointed to what he called Horman’s lack of “conservative values.”

“She ranks very low on the Idaho Freedom Index,” said Neal.

Horman ranked 39th among 105 legislators, according to ratings from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative group headquartered in Boise.

Neal grew up on a farm in Tuttle before moving to Twin Falls and graduating high school. He later began stints in public service as a ranger with the National Park Service and as a law enforcement officer.

After “working his way through law school,” Neal found jobs with the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and Bonneville County, before starting a private practice 10 years ago.

Horman, seeking her third term, said she espouses the conservative values that Neal claims she lacks.

“I support limited government solutions and low taxes,” said Horman, who touts an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.

A heavy hitter in terms of state education, Horman serves on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, where she helps carve up state education budgets.

District 30 Rep. Wendy Horman is seeking reelection.
Wendy Horman

“If re-elected, my focus will continue to be on education policy and finance, school safety and security as well as creating the economic climate necessary for Idaho businesses to thrive and grow,” she said.

A mother of five, Horman started as a tutor and school volunteer. She was later elected to the Bonneville district school board.

She gravitated toward state politics with a move to the Idaho School Boards Association, eventually serving as president. In 2012, she successfully ran for an open legislative seat.

“I first ran for public office because I care about the education of our children and government that is accountable and transparent,” she said.

Horman co-chairs a legislative interim committee, which has the high-stakes task of reworking Idaho’s complicated education funding formula.

THE RACE

Republican primary: District 30 House Seat B

Candidates:

Challenger Randy Neal (www.facebook.com/randyneal2016) 

Incumbent Wendy Horman (www.wendyhorman.com)

How long have you lived in your legislative district?

Neal: Lived in Idaho Falls for six years.

Horman: Lived in Idaho Falls for 31 years.

Education:

Neal: Bachelor’s degree in communications, Brigham Young University; JD, Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Horman: Associate of science from Dixie State University; bachelor’s degree in political science, Brigham Young University-Idaho.

Political background: 

Neal: Serves as Bonneville County precinct committee officer.

Horman: Two, two-year terms in the Idaho House.

Who can vote: Registered voters in District 30, which includes Idaho Falls.

Education connection:

Neal: Prosecutor of five years; worked with at-risk youth for the development of IEP implementation.

Horman: Bonneville School District trustee, 2002-13; former president of the Idaho School Boards Association; served on the Governor’s Task Force for Improving Education; member of the board of directors of Education Northwest in Portland, Ore.

CANDIDATES’ QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES

Do you support the 2016-17 public school budget passed by the Legislature this year? Why or why not?

Neal: “While I support restoring some of the funding that was cut from the education budget in the lean years, it seems the majority of the budget increases went to personnel and administration rather than students.”

Horman: “I support it. We honored our commitment to fund the second year of the career ladder and restore operational funding that was lost during the recession. We also made important investments in literacy, technology, school facilities, school security and professional development. But it is important to recognize that our education budgets weren’t just about more money this year – they were also about money being spent differently in ways that are connected to outcomes and work force development.”

Explain why you support or oppose implementing all of Gov. Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education recommendations over the next three years.

Neal: “This task force recommended supporting the implementation of Common Core, rebranded as ‘Idaho Core.’ The way this was implemented by rule-making shows that they intentionally wanted to avoid legislative and public scrutiny. I do not support centralized, standardized control of education.”

Horman: “I support the Task Force recommendations and believe they are a key reason we have been able to secure record funding levels for public schools the past two sessions. They represent a strategic plan for Idaho education. And, as with any strategic plan worth its salt, it will require monitoring and revision over time. For example, has our investment in teachers’ salaries over the past two years through the career ladder and leadership premiums helped us recruit and retain teachers in Idaho?  If not, we need to ask ourselves what else we need to do to make that happen.”

State leaders are promoting a goal of having 60 percent of Idaho’s young adults hold a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2020. Do you support or oppose this goal and why?

Neal: “As long as it provides a proper emphasis on vocational training as well, I support increasing educational goals for our young people. The progress so far toward this goal has been disappointing.”

Horman: “It’s a good goal. I meet with Idaho businesses on a regular basis that can’t grow because they can’t hire employees with the necessary skills, certifications and degrees. More money won’t necessarily solve that problem, but strategic, targeted spending can help. For example, this year we made an investment of $3.7 million to increase student enrollment in programs where we know students have high skill, high wage jobs waiting for them upon graduation – areas such as information technology and health care.”

Idaho students’ math scores on several tests, including the SAT, SBAC, and NAEP, have raised concerns among educators and state leaders. What would you do to increase student achievement in math?

Neal: “As with most educational improvement, I believe we cannot restrict ourselves to solutions within the four walls of our schools. Family and community support are key to any change in student attitudes. Standardized curriculums fail to challenge gifted students while lax attitudes toward the value of math knowledge in our daily lives mean students shift their interests elsewhere. While we must seek to improve our emphasis on math as a matter of curriculum, we must seek ways to involve parents and community resources to ignite students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Seeing how these interplay to provide rewarding career opportunities is best achieved by reaching beyond the school’s own resources.”

Horman: “I’m not overly concerned about standardized test scores. Idaho NAEP scores were in line with national averages. I am more concerned about Idaho students acquiring problem solving and critical thinking skills. I often see those skills acquired exceptionally well in project-based learning classrooms where math concepts are learned and applied to solve real world problems. Decisions about math instruction are best made at the local level where teachers and parents know each student’s progress and can tailor individualized learning paths toward mastery. It is also important that teachers have opportunities to improve their professional practice in math instruction; this year the state invested over $16 million in professional development for Idaho teachers.”

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