SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

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By Monie de Wit

In a town that prides itself on ideals of equity, access, and inclusion, the prospect of running for the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) Board is anything but.  

Just to file the necessary paperwork and pay for a 200 word or less statement costs $5,302! For any candidate that needs to make their case to the voters in less than 400 words? You’ll need $10,604 handy. In contrast, a run at the city council is free and an SBCC Trustee fee is less than $1,000. 

I get that there are extra translation fees but really the half of a page is going to run without the 200 words so additional charges are hard to justify from a printing aspect.

This price tag is a barrier and leads to appointed incumbents staying in power. Incumbents have name recognition and party and donor backing that those lacking the means can't compete with and should not have to in a democracy. I think it is wrong to create barriers that exclude candidates whose children are among the high risk.  This leads to having boards, like we did with our last Superintendent that is made up entirely of appointed board members.  So Superintendent Matsuoka got to hire his own bosses. This tends to make for a top-down rubber-stamping board. Our new Superintendent and the current board could change this if equity is truly a priority.

Santa Barbara County has the third-highest rate of poverty in California, according to a study conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California.  

I drilled down on these details because I am considering a run for SBUSD board. As a mother of two children in the district, I have believed our district could do a far better job of addressing literacy, special needs students, teaching the neurodiverse, and dramatically raising the educational outcomes for all students, be they privileged or impoverished.    

SBUSD spent $26.5 million on the armory and $40 million on a football field that was supposed to cost $12 million. But this same leadership that spends freely on vanity projects cuts off anyone who can’t easily afford the $5,302 entry fee. The voter guide is the main way to communicate with voters in a pandemic. Do we really want candidates canvassing door to door because they can't afford the fees and that is the only option? This feels so rigged against outsiders or new energy.

How are we ever going to get representation from those socioeconomically stressed? What about our high-risk students and families?  So many in our diverse community get spoken down to, but when will they have a voice on the school board podium too?

This "Pay to play" dramatically reduces competition and accountability. It simply maintains the status quo - people connected to the school district or simply using their board seat as a platform to higher office.  I find this troubling, rigged and inherently unfair because it means that anyone else who wants to participate in the process must first be part of the elite and/or aline themselves with one political party or the another just to pay the entry fee. 

I am motivated to get involved because I truly believe that literacy is a human right.  Literacy not only disrupts the school to prison pipeline, it builds self-confidence and self-esteem, and it enables every child the chance to reach for their true potential.   Literacy is the essence of education.  

Even if I do not make it on the ballot,  I believe we should reduce this defensive paywall to allow a greater diversity of new people and new ideas to enter our school district leadership.   If we want the best for our kids, our teachers and our community,  let’s stop shutting the door on those ready, willing and able to help.

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SBLIFE Jul 24, 2020 11:23 AM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Monie, you left out a huge detail - that fee is NOT required to run for the school board. That fee, and inclusion of your candidate statement in the voter's guide, is completely optional. You can be on the ballot for free (in my understanding of the candidate info guide) as long as you fill out the paperwork. I agree that the fee amount to be in the Voter's Guide is disturbingly astronomical (2-5x any other special district election), but it does not prevent you from running for office.

a-1595615105 Jul 24, 2020 11:25 AM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

BTW, here is the candidate filing guide:

lovesbalot Jul 24, 2020 11:39 AM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

SB life .. Thank you for the links but here is the inequity. If you don't pay the 5300 for 200.00 words or 400 is 10,000 you only get room for your name and occupation . With Covid it is not prudent to go door to door so this paywall should not exist. The voters have a right to know and everyone should get 200 words. Also the fee does not crunch. I used to do oversees press checks and that page has black ink. It will cost the same for 200 words as 400. There maybe a tiny translation cost that is extra. The whole situation is inherently unfair not equitable. Plus the students who are doing the worse are also the ones who qualify for free lunch and the students with differences. Shouldn't their parents get to run for school board without this barrier. Seriously it is not democratic. It tilts towards those with means and connections get the big advantage. There is no way to reach 113,000 voters without being in that voter guide. Unequitable and imprudent during a pandemic.

Sheridan Rosenberg Jul 24, 2020 11:45 AM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Monie is ABSOLUTELY right! This is pay to play. This is an OUTRAGEOUS amount of money to ask anyone to pay just to have a LEVEL PLAYING FIELD. It gives a very unfair advantage to those who can afford to pay or for those who are being sponsored to run. It is just another form of cronyism. It really is.

Sheridan Rosenberg Jul 24, 2020 11:50 AM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Additionally, I just can‘t see any justification for such an extraordinary amount of money to simply print a short bio and statement. $5k and $10k? Seriously????

a-1595616445 Jul 24, 2020 11:47 AM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

You are over-valuing the candidate statement insert. Few bother to read them, and they don't play that large a role in vote-getting compared to raising your own profile in the public eye by your own efforts . Yes, it has long been a tradition to win local elections using shoe-leather, walking precincts, setting up tables in high traffic areas, participating in public forums, letters to the editors, soliciting newspaper endorsements because you can effectively present winning arguments, writing opinion pieces for publications, using free candidate information websites, and contacting community networking groups one by one that already exist. If you are not connected to this wider community already, because you are supposed to represent the wider community; not just a sole personal interest, maybe this is not the time for you to run for office anyway.. Starting out whining about the "system" is not a good introduction for your candidacy. However, you are right about one thing; you do have to buck the well-entrenched system that does favor some candidates known to be friendly to the system. But you would have to do that anyway even if you were elected - so learn how to "battle the system" right now because it has six ways against Sunday of taking you down even if you win. Find a core group of like minded candidates and run as a slate, sharing costs and connections. The only way to take back our local school offices, is to take them back. It is an uphill climb, but those skills will serve you well if you do get elected. Withering at the first tier of opposition is not a good start. Good luck and carry on. Change is needed. You have that going for you. Budget issues are far more critical right now, so get those nailed down and be ready to provide solutions. Know the economics of public education and how the inside players have played the game for so long. Make taxpayers care about what this means to them - and what they are now getting in return for their substantial tax dollar investment. Your adversary is the well-funded educational-industrial complex. Now, go for it. Make enough voters want to choose you to fix it.

a-1595630483 Jul 24, 2020 03:41 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

I do a lot of calling for candidates. The printed statement is very important. Many people say "I haven't studied the candidates yet. I will make up my mind after I read the voting pamphlet.

RHS Jul 24, 2020 06:27 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

While many may not read the statement (unfortunately) failure to file one indicates that you are not a "serious" candidate and you are ignored. This fee is absurd. Akin to a poll tax. It should be abolished as it only works to protect the incumbent.

a-1595713689 Jul 25, 2020 02:48 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

I read the voter guide (which contains candidate statements for those who don't know, it's the booklet sent out before every election); it's added to the paper pile I compile, topped by my mail ballot, even though I read all my news online. I do still have a modicum of interest in endorsements as part of my decision-making. I wish Americans saw voting as a responsibility; one of our obligations that are the other side of our rights. Make Sure You Are Registered To Vote!!

SBWoman Jul 24, 2020 12:11 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

This must be changed to ensure every resident access to message their candidacy. Can we start a GO FUND ME PAGE for SBUSD CANDIDATES? Can I pay for an EdHat Ad to allow Myself and others to know where to send contributions? Where can we send Monie a contribution to help pay this insane, discriminatory fee?

CitizenOfSB Jul 24, 2020 12:50 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Thank you, Ms. De Wit, for bringing light to this issue. $5-10K is an outrageous fee for getting a short message out to registered voters. Seems like it ought to be a few hundred dollars, or maybe free if you can get enough signatures of local voters who support your candidacy. Who has the power to change this fee? Current SBUSD board? County board of supervisors? Some other elections board/commission? Where should I direct my ire?

a-1595622471 Jul 24, 2020 01:27 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

What is outrageous is thinking a 200 word statement in a ballot brochure, that most (not all) throw out anyway or only read for the leading issues, is going to make or break any candidate in a very local election. Go reach out to the people you want to elect you, without relying on only 200 printed words. You will get that much for free just responding to media questionaires sent out to all candidates. Make school board position non-partisan again, as intended. In fact make it an issue if an opposition candidate took special interest money just to be able to print out those 200 words. SBUSD should be running a prospective candidates forum on their dime, to provide uniform district information for everyone who wants to take on this position. Ask them when it will be scheduled. And if they refuse, you have just found your first issue campaign to take to the media - hold a press conference and have all your ducks in a row. Level the playing field, SBUSD. No more cozy in house appointments. because "no one wants to run". Find the names of former SBUSD school board candidates from the county elections office - talk to them. They can teach any new candidate a lot. What worked for them, what did not. Even if they ultimately lost.

a-1595714102 Jul 25, 2020 02:55 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Just as the candidate statement is one piece of all the information I read before I make a choice, it is one piece of a campaign. It does not look good when it is blank in the voter guide. Non-serious candidates rarely if ever have a statement. It's a piece of playing the game seriously. You make good points, I just want to point out that this is an issue. And doubling the price for doubling the number of words?! Outrageous!

HEH Jul 24, 2020 01:31 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

When I ran for the SBUSD in 2016 the original cost to me was $5103.00 but that was for a full page on the assumption that there may be no other candidate to share the full page. The SBUSD has the practice of passing a resolution indicating that the most a candidate can pay is for 1/4 of a page. I kept my statement to 1/4 page and in December received a rebate for $4,307.67. My net cost was $795.33. If you are going to run a full fledged campaign be aware this is only a minor part of the cost. I was fortunate as this was a re-election campaign and this was my only cost as I chose not to raise any funds nor spend any funds. Hopefully the School Board will once again pass this resolution and with current members probably considering to run again I would bet that such a motion will be passed assuming someone remembers to put it on the agenda if not already accomplished. I hope more citizens consider running. Thanks for the interest. [email protected]

gunther Jul 24, 2020 04:33 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

I agree that $5,302 seems like a lot for a 200 word or less statement. AND better start fundraising if you want to run a viable campaign because $5K is the least you will spend to get any real attention and want to win any election based on informed choices.

Watcher237 Jul 24, 2020 05:54 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Very un-democratic. We ALWAYS want a low barrier to entry. Let the voters decide. Same goes for the President. Any US Born citizen 35 years or older can run for President. Why? Because anybody CAN. This is America!!! The only HARD part is getting enough votes to win. That's the only thing that SHOULD be hard!!! Declaration of Independence, anyone? Constitution???

RHS Jul 24, 2020 06:40 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

To those who demean this post please consider that while many may not read the statement (unfortunately) failure to file one indicates that you are not a "serious" candidate and you are ignored. This fee is absurd. Akin to a poll tax. It should be abolished as it only works to protect the incumbent.

Rinconer Jul 25, 2020 08:09 AM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Thank you for posting.
Pay to play is not the American Way.
That may explain some of the shocking behavior by administrators and some teachers in this County. There is next to zero accountability when kids are abused, instead the victims and the whistleblowers are forced to other schools and other counties. Needs fixing immediately, and shine a bright light in every corner.

a-1595714443 Jul 25, 2020 03:00 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Please don't direct any ire until the procedural question is answered! =============
Maybe Ed Heron (HEH) can answer the procedural question. ===================
The SB School Board and/or the County Elections Office must be contacted to find out who sets this fee policy. Once the community has FACTS the community can pursue fairness in the policy by approaching the responsible body.

a-1595714612 Jul 25, 2020 03:03 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

This should've been part of De Wit's (is Ms. the proper form of address? I refer to the editorial's author) statement. I hope they can tell us what they have found out at this point in time. They must be pleased at the response. They sound like a viable candidate.

Lorax Jul 25, 2020 03:10 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Our incumbents have not done a good job. They have continued to ignore the testing results that show below average scores in reading and math. They seem to want to discuss anything else. They were backed by teachers union which is heavily democratic even though there is nothing democratic about it. The $$ to run helps off set candidate's statements, media , campaign signs and printed materials. This is all very managed with strong public employees union influence to promote the "chosen ones" Let the kids eat cake.
Keep exposing this, its a great moment of change and questioning.
Our children are getting further behind each day , it is important we get some people with the right agenda "our children's education" on this board.

yin yang Jul 25, 2020 03:32 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Although I would have a problem supporting someone who is part of Fair Education, which is fighting the Just Communities program, which as far as I know is voluntary, not mandatory. As just one objection, I don't believe their lawsuit is a good use of school district monies. I support curriculum like Just Communities. I've hated to see such a battle play out in my community. Yes, I'm an avowed anti-Trumpist.

lovesbalot Jul 25, 2020 04:23 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Thank you all for your interesting comments. Email at bottom for anyone who wants to help me with advice or volunteer, fundraising etc... For the record I am not a member of Fair Ed , though I think they have gotten this entire community engaged in our district. To be clear I am disappointed that Just Communities has not closed the achievement gap after 12 years and is still not acknowledging that over 20% struggle with literacy. JC did not have to compete to get their contract, and JC does not acknowledge that those struggling with literacy are being left in the dust as are many high risk students. The test scores are at an all time low with La Cuesta 81 juniors and seniors only 4% can read at grade level and math 8%. Mckinley 4th graders at 9%. Private schools offer one on one and early interventions and individual care to help close the achievement gap. No amount of going to Just Communities is going to help these kids learn how to decode. which is key to reading by end of 3rd. 74 % of the students who can't read at grade at 9th will still be struggle. Then they miss school , then truancy and them they are pushed out from the education system to justice system, and even abused in " corrupt fix your kid camps" Its the school that's failing the kids not the other way around . I grew up in a family with diverse beliefs. I don't alienate those I disagree with but try to connect and change. Let's focus on students unmet needs and be civilized to each other. Literacy is a human right. I AM READY. If you want to help get me organized and fundraise please connect PLEASE EMAIL ME AT [email protected]

yin yang Jul 27, 2020 05:35 AM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

I read in the Independent that you were a member of and/or aligned with Just Communities. I will look further into it if you're on the ballot. I much appreciate your engagement. However -- you are "disappointed that Just Communities has not closed the achievement gap..." What?! That is not their job! They provide a specialized extra-curricular program. They don't teach basic subjects.

HEH Jul 25, 2020 05:23 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

From SBUSD Board Policy: Statement of Qualifications-The district shall pay the Santa Barbara County Elections Division so that no candidate requesting a candidate’s statement in the voter’s guide will have to pay a cost for the ballot statement exceeding one-quarter of a page in the guide.On the 125thday prior to the day fixed for the general district election, the Board secretary or his/her designee shall deliver a notice, bearing the secretary's signature and district seal, to the county elections official describing both of the following: (Elections Code 10509)1.The elective offices of the district to be filled at the general election and which offices, if any, are for the balance of an unexpired term-2.Notification of the district policy that the district will pay the Elections Division so that no candidate requesting a candidate’s statement in the voter’s guide will have to pay a cost for the ballot statement exceeding one-quarter of a page in the guide.

How it works. The County Election Office charges the candidate for a full page (they don't know if the full paged will be filled or not) based on an estimated cost. After all the actual costs have been tallied and allocated the SBUSD pays the County Election office what ever it takes to insure the Candidate pays no more than the actual cost the the 1/4 page and then the County Election Office refunds the excess to the candidate. I received my refund in December if I recall correctly. This wasn't always the case. At one point the candidate only paid for 1/4 page and the County Election Office and the SBUSD settled up after the actual cost was determined. Why the change? I can't remember. [email protected]

yin yang Jul 27, 2020 05:55 AM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Thank you, Mr. Heron, for the information, sincerely. Please attribute next and at all times. Policy is here:

lovesbalot Jul 27, 2020 02:10 PM
SBUSD Board Candidate Pay to Play is not OK

Ying Yang ; If we truly care about our kids how can half not read ? I think literacy needs to given greater priority. I will talk to and connect with anyone that aims to work in the interest of our children. I can attest to the importance of literacy as a dyslexic myself and mother of a dyslexic child. I am not a Fair Ed member what you're referencing was an error and Delaney Smith (the author of the article) can confirm that.

Here is where I'm coming from: If you can't read and over half in our district can't students wind up many times in juvenile system particularly if their parents do not have means . There is disparity in our campuses if you look at the scores at McKinley, Cleveland with only 4% and 9 % are proficient and that is not even talking about special needs scores in the district. La Cuesta which is made up of 81 juniors and seniors only 4% are proficient at literacy and 8% at math. This is troubling neglect to me. I volunteer at Freedom for Youth and see first hand how students get pushed out of school. I attack bad policies and avoid attacking people because it does not help get the unmet needs met. I also have worked with Joan Esposito of Dyslexia Awareness Resource Center that closed a few years back. Joan has been working on helping students for decades and trying to change policies that hurt this high risk group including truancy and the school to prison pipeline. My focus is on human rights. I volunteer for Human Rights Watch and have learned so much about standing up for rights. Now I hope to stand up for literacy and equitable distribution of resources. I hope this makes my perspective and position clearer. Thank you for caring.

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