By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers
Seven weeks before the Nov. 8 election, the most consequential and competitive campaign contests in Santa Barbara center on public education.
Across the nation, the 2022 mid-terms feature a collection of bitter and costly political battles for House and Senate seats that may determine far more than partisan control of Congress: the anti-democracy, pro-authoritarian transformation of the Trump-dominated Republican party imperils foundational values of the American system itself: the rule of law, honest elections, the peaceful transfer of power, for starters.
Closer to home, however, the most notable and urgent election conflicts amid the local political landscape are unfolding over ostensibly non-partisan jobs that carry responsibility for overseeing the administration, finances, quality and safety of taxpayer-funded institutions of learning, from transitional kindergarten to college.
In an effort to magnify the visibility, and highlight the importance, of the campaigns of candidates seeking these low-profile, hyper-local, often thankless, but enormously important elected offices Newsmakers has partnered with the Montecito Journal to produce a series of online forums where the contenders debate, discuss and drill down on the complex, formidable and stubborn challenges facing public education at every level in Santa Barbara County.
This week we spoke with, and asked questions of, candidates for the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the County Board of Education and SB City College. All but one candidate on the ballot in the three contests accepted our invitation to present their ideas, values and proposed solutions for the difficult, sometimes seemingly intractable, problems confronting students, teachers, parents and administrators in our community.
We thank them for their participation and for putting themselves out there, doing the grinding hard work of competing in the public arena.
SANTA BARBARA UNIFIED
Kate Ford’s surprise decision not to seek re-election has produced an open seat on the five-member school board, now being sought by three candidates with very different backgrounds and perspectives — UCSB administrator and community activist Gabe Escobedo; retired classroom assistant Ephigenia “Efi” Banales (who had camera issues on Zoom); parent and non-profit executive Dan La Berge.
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION
Longtime board incumbent and prominent non-profit volunteer Marybeth Carty is being challenged by veteran neighborhood schools activist Rosanne Crawford. A key issue in the race: testing the limits of power and influence of the often overlooked county board.
SANTA BARBARA CITY COLLEGE
The retirement of longtime trustee and SBCC professor Peter Haslund created an opening on the seven-member board of trustees. Nurse practitioner and CSU Channel Islands professor Charlotte Gullap-Moore spoke with us at length; her opponent, small businesswoman Debi Stoker, refused to participate unless we changed the format we chose for all our forums, a demand we declined to accommodate.
More to come.