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10/11 Now Candidate Profile: Liz Davids, State Board of Education

Liz Davids

District 1

1. Please provide a brief overview of your background and what drives you to seek membership on this board.

I’m a Husker who earned my Bachelor’s degree in 2002 at UNL in Piano Performance, married my husband shortly thereafter, and began our family here in Lincoln - a wonderful place to raise children.

I have educated children up to age 18 in a variety of settings, volunteered weekly at my local elementary school, and have advocated and fundraised for educational philanthropic school and community projects.

My interest in the State Board of Education began 3 years ago when I started attending SBOE and LPS meetings, listening to the concerns that were presented by community members and educational staff, learning about the systems and processes that are in place, and occasionally speaking at those meetings.

And because I was investing in the learning process, I’ve been contacted by parents, staff members, and teachers alike who shared their expertise and experiences with me and often felt like their administrators, district leaders, or SBOE representatives weren’t listening to them. My experience also confirmed that often, board members were so entrenched in their political ideology that they didn’t care what their constituents wanted. So I felt called last fall to run for this public service position in order to bring to light the experiences and concerns of hundreds of teachers, parents, school staff, and community members that I have talked to over the past 3 years.

2. What are the key issues facing K-12 education in Nebraska? How would you work to address them?

With the purpose of K-12 education in Nebraska being to instill quality instruction in academics and life skills to our students in a safe and positive environment so they can succeed in life beyond their childhood, there are many issues affecting our K-12 educational systems.

They include: shoring up the teacher certification and recertification process to address the public school teacher shortage crisis, addressing escalating student behaviors, the need to increase Career Technical Education (CTE) programs to meet the workforce demand, addressing the lack of teacher support by public school administration, providing excellent phonetic reading program instruction that follows the evidence-based data and addresses issues like dyslexia and dysgraphia, addressing our declining academic proficiency scores, ensuring that parents feel confident in the collaboration with public school teachers and administrators, retaining quality public school teachers through attractive salary and benefit packages, and providing transparency in public school funding for taxpayers.

3. Across the state, some districts are having a difficult time recruiting and retaining teachers and staff, particularly special education educators. How could the Board help?

Although the State Board of Education doesn’t have the jurisdiction to micromanage school districts or taxpaying entities to directly influence compensation packages, the SBOE can influence individual public school districts: to provide the most attractive compensation packages they can and make budget cuts as far from direct student involvement as possible, to remove unnecessary burdens from teachers and paras whose primary focus should be to teach academics and life skills, to make available online resources statewide for exceptional professional enrichment and development, and to regularly celebrate teachers and staff who are doing excellent work as well as publicly promote the incredible and rewarding opportunities to serve the next generation through K-12 education.

4. If revised sex education standards were to be brought back up, what would be your priorities in deciding what to include?

Health standards should be based on factual, academic, scientific, legally-informed information that serves every student at an age-appropriate level without infringing on the personal values of any student or their family.

Students for generations have been taught factual biological information and students should continue to receive factual biological information that helps them make healthy choices in their lives.

5. What are your thoughts on efforts to ban library books?

Just like accredited Nebraska schools have statewide standards for math, language arts, science, etc, I think it would benefit our state’s schools to explore establishing statewide library standards.

I would recommend that a draft of statewide library standards could be put together by a team of school librarians, teachers, superintendents, psychologists, legal counsel, etc. and then be assessed by the State Board of Education members.

6. Getting schools funded, particularly rural schools, without bankrupting towns and taxpayers has been a concern in the state for years. How can the Board help balance the need for schools to be funded without increases to property taxes?

The Nebraska legislature is primarily tasked with the mechanics of funding our public schools and TEEOSA is a complicated formula that takes property taxes and other factors into account.

Since the SBOE doesn’t have taxing authority or other financial regulatory jurisdiction, and its purpose is not to micromanage school districts or their taxpayers, its primary role should be in influencing school districts to use their financial resources as efficiently as possible.

Over the past 20 years, the rate of student and teacher growth has been around 8% while the rate of staff growth has been 33% and administrator growth has soared to a record 88%.

As a taxpayer, parent, educator, and involved community member, I would encourage every school program to focus their budget on those with direct student involvement and make budget cuts as far from direct student interaction as possible. Originally published: April 26, 2024 on 10/11 Now

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