VIDEO: State Senate candidates spar over opt-out, public vs charters

(From L to R) Bernard August, Meredith Chapman, David Sokola

Should parents be able to opt their children out of state tests? Major party state Senate candidates in the 8th district have differing views.

The hot-button issue took over the last General Assembly, and Republican challenger Meredith Chapman wants to see it revisited. She favors an opt-out provision.

"We need to actually support opt-out--out of the state assessment tests--and then allow for what I think we need--an alternative program so that students can have another experience--whether it's through critical thinking or problem solving to enrich that because a parent has a right to choose what is best for their child," said Chapman.

Longtime incumbent state Senator David Sokola does not fully support an opt-out provision.

"If it said opt-out of Smarter Balanced, I'd probably support it," said Sokola. "But if just said opt-out of the state tests--then I'd have a problem because I think we will be moving to a different assessment within a couple of years anyway."

On the flip side, making sure public schools and charter schools have a better relationship is one point where the major party state senate candidates in the 8th district agree.

With a lawsuit pending against the Christina School District from sharter schools, Sokola said it's something that has to be worked out.

"Either the district has to figure out a way to coordinate efforts with the charters better, or we're going to have to step in and figure out a way that could get done. It's not a simple thing," said Sokola.

Chapman wants public schools and charter schools to better complement one another.

"If we do have a charter--it's a complement--it's something that you could not get in your traditional public schools," said Chapman. "Look at Delaware Military Academy--that's something that you would not expect a traditional public school to offer."

Green Party candidate David Chandler wasn't available to attend the forum, and Green Party State Representative candidate Bernard August sat in for Chandler.

The candidates spoke at Kirk Middle School just outside of Brookside last night.