Washington state should turn parents of school-age children into education consumers through a system of vouchers that could be used in private schools, a candidate for the Legislature said Monday.
“I see it as a form of deregulation” of basic education, Republican Brad Benson said.
Benson, 37, is a former personal banking officer for Seafirst who now owns Hansen Creamery with his wife, Jill. He is entering his first political campaign to run for the state House of Representatives seat held by Jean Silver.
Silver hasn’t announced yet whether she will seek re-election, but Benson said he will run regardless of her decision.
He told a crowd gathered at the Ridpath Hotel for his campaign kickoff that he would work to make state government more accountable, push public schools back to a basic curriculum, and oppose abortion in all cases except those that save a mother’s life.
Benson criticized the state’s Child Protective Services agency for being too quick to remove children from homes. Regulations should be rewritten so caseworkers need “real convincing evidence of danger” to remove a child from its parents, he said.
In a later interview, Benson said he supports an initiative to give parents vouchers that would allow them to spend tax dollars for any school they chose. Public schools would improve to meet the competition, he contended.
He was sharply critical of public schools, saying he believes they have “wishy-washy goals” and spend too much time on non-essential subjects required by the state.
“My daughter spent three weeks talking about the rain forest and one hour talking about George Washington,” he said.
The state also needs to ensure swifter justice and tougher punishment for criminals, Benson said.
“We need to remember that punishment is punishment. Prisoners should have living conditions that are not better than the poorest honest-working person,” he said.
Inmates in state prisons should work 60-hour weeks, so that a standard 40-hour week will look more attractive when they are released, he added.
Silver said Monday afternoon she had not heard of Benson but said anyone who wanted to seek the seat had a right to run.
She declined to say whether she has raised any money yet for her re-election, although her campaign finance reports on file at the Spokane County Courthouse indicate she has not. She said she might wait until July before making a final decision.