Candidates for Washington State's 12th legislative district met Tuesday night on the Wenatchee Valley College campus to debate education-related topics.

State Representative Mike Steele and candidates Valerie Sarratt, Keith Goehner and Dr. Ann Diamond were all on hand in the Grove Recital Hall for the debate hosted by the Apple STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Network. The candidates were divided into pairs to reflect the legislative seats they were running for, as Goehner and Diamond are vying for the 12th district position one seat while Steele and Sarratt have been squaring off for position two.

Dr. Andy Shouse, Chief Program Officer for Washington STEM, was on hand to moderate the debate. His questions mainly centered around education and STEM specifically.

Each candidate was given roughly a minute for introductions as well as two minutes for every question asked. Questions usually differed between the pairs of candidates.

While all the candidates agreed that education reform was necessary, as was funding STEM curriculum, differences in application and values were apparent. Dr. Shouse asked the position one candidates, "Do you believe that STEM skills are critical for all students in our region?"

Dr. Ann Diamond was selected as first to answer.

"To me math is a life skill." said Dr. Diamond, "If you don't know how to balance your checkbook, if you don't know how to tackle a simple financial problem, [then] I would point out that there are 44 million students in debt right now. That's more than one tenth of this country. And we are doing [them] a disservice if we are not educating our students on how to handle their finances so that they can move forward with their careers and advance."

Next came Keith Goehner's chance to tackle the same question.

"We think about and we talk about the 21st century." responded Goehner, "There are some really neat opportunities for employment in the 21st century. But there's still some opportunities for employment that date back many many centuries that people, as I mentioned, find great fulfillment in and I think we need to value everyone's desires and give them the skills to make the choices, and to find great fulfillment, in their life's work."

The debating between State Representative Mike Steele and Valerie Sarratt provided an interesting contrast. Steele, being the only incumbent on the stage, had a more polished approach to the questions. Sarratt, however, had the advantage of being the only working teacher amongst the group.

At one point Dr. Shouse asked Steele and Sarratt, "What needs to be done to ensure that high quality early education is provided for all students, especially those most under-served?"

"One of the things I've been focused on is preschool teachers and the gap that they have in their pay compared to their cohorts in regular elementary school." began Sarratt, "I think preschool is when we have to get the students to start thinking in mathematical terms. Not just in terms of, say, helping them to count and do the very basic mathematical ideas but actually introducing ideas like decimal numbers, like fractions."

Responded Steele, "One of the things that I've been focused on is how we're funding ECEAP and early childhood development and what that looks like for our early students. Especially in rural communities like ours. How do we get those community services out to those kids, how do we reach those kids and those families, and how do we engage them in a meaningful way that says, 'This is a really important moment of your child's education and it can't be left off the table."

After the debate, the candidates made themselves available to WVC students for short questions before eventually exiting the building.

Both district 12 seats will be decided by voters Tuesday, November 6th. For full election coverage go to



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