Fielding questions on topics ranging from the new state assessment exams to school safety, the two candidates for Ventura County superintendent of schools squared off in a forum Tuesday before more than 100 county educators and members of the public.
County schools Supt. Charles Weis and school Principal Dan Flynn, who is challenging Weis for his job in the June 7 election, differed most markedly on their views about the California Learning Assessment System exams and school vouchers.
Answering a question from the audience at the Camarillo Airport conference center, Flynn said he has concerns about the content of the CLAS exams and proposed that the state halt the tests immediately.
Weis, on the other hand, said many of the criticisms of the content of the tests are based on misinformation. But he suggested that local school districts take over administration of the assessment tests in the future.
On school vouchers, Flynn and Weis both said they adamantly opposed last year's Proposition 174 school-voucher initiative. But Flynn said he supports some form of tuition assistance to families with children in private schools, if it would not financially harm public schools.
Flynn said he has four school-age children in private, parochial elementary schools, although he and his wife may send the children to public high school.
The candidates also answered questions on budget priorities for the superintendent's office, school safety and their views on state curriculum guidelines.
The debate was sponsored by the Ventura County League of Women Voters and the Ventura County Federation of School Employees, a union representing 123 teachers, psychologists and other educational specialists who work for the county superintendent's office.
The office runs 13 schools, and educational programs for special education students and youths who are in trouble with the law. The office also acts as an arm of the state Department of Education, distributing materials, equipment and advice to Ventura County's 20 school districts.