CARSON CITY – The two candidates in the race for the state Senate District 5 seat in Henderson debated the issues today in a televised exchange, finding more agreement than division on the all important subject of education reform.
Former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, a Democrat from Henderson, faced off against former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk, the Republican, in what could only be described as a staid discussion in a critical race for party control of the state Senate.
Woodhouse, a former Clark County school teacher and principal, served one term in the Legislature before being defeated in her reelection bid in 2010. She is now running for an open seat created when Henderson Democrat Shirley Breeden decided not to seek reelection.
Kirk is seeking to turn the seat to Republican control in an effort by the GOP to take control of the 21-member Senate. Democrats now have an 11-10 edge.
In the debate on Ralston Reports, the two candidates appeared to be in agreement more often than otherwise on a number of issues, particularly on what to do to improve the quality of public education.
Kirk said his top priority if elected to the Senate will be to fund public education adequately.
“That we reduce class size, that we hire more teachers,” he said. “Those are the kinds of things that we need to be doing.”
Kirk said the state needs to end social promotion and implement a grading system for elementary schools, giving parents the options of enrolling their children in another school if their neighborhood school is failing.
Kirk said he supports Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposal to extend a set of taxes now set to expire on June 30, 2013, into the next budget to avoid further cuts to public education.
Woodhouse said she too supports ending the automatic promotion of students regardless of their achievement levels but stopped short of supporting school choice.
“This is an issue we need to work on and put all of the stakeholders together,” she said. “The teachers, the parents, the school administrators, and the school boards, and work out a plan on how to deal with this.”
Woodhouse also said the Legislature needs to wait and see how the many education reforms passed in the 2011 session work out before considering more changes. Many of those reforms are just now beginning to take effect, she said.
The two candidates also agreed on the separate issue of expanding Medicaid as provided for in the Affordable Care Act.
The Senate 5 district has a Democratic voter advantage through the end of September, 40.5 percent to 36 percent for Republicans.
Senate 5 candidate Steve Kirk says the state needs to fund public education adequately:
Senate 5 candidate Joyce Woodhouse says school choice options need to be decided by parents and educators in concert: